Major Jill Metzger, who went missing Tuesday, told police she had been kidnapped by three young men and a woman, Omurbek Suvanaliyev, the Kyrgyz deputy interior minister, said on Friday.

 

Suvanaliyev said that Metzger had been seized in Bishkek, the Central Asian nation's capital, before being taken in a minibus to a rural area 50 km (30 miles) away.

 

US Military officials said Metzger, dressed in civilian clothes, vanished during a shopping trip to Bishkek, where she was searching for souvenirs to bring home to her family.

 

Such so-called “cultural tours” are common for off-duty US military personnel, army official said.

 

She had been shopping with several military colleagues when they lost sight of her.

 

Her disappearance baffled investigators. Kyrgyz police had originally ruled out kidnapping.

 

The US military said it had fielded 22 special agents to look for Metzger throughout Kyrgyzstan.

 

Deployment in Central Asia

 

Metzger was serving a four-month tour at the US military’s air base at Bishkek when she disappeared shortly before her deployment was due to end.

 

The US military has maintained an air base at Kyrgyzstan's main civilian airport since 2001. The base was initially established to support operations in nearby Afghanistan.

 

Kyrgyzstan is deep in Central Asia

The shopping center where Metzger disappeared, located about 56 km (35 miles) from the base, was not a particularly dangerous area, said Colonel Kevin Jacobson of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

 

After her disappearance, the US military banned all off-duty personnel from leaving the base until Metzger was found.

 

It was unclear late Friday whether that policy had changed.

 

Metzger was returned to the US airbase by Kyrgyz authorites after her discovery.

 

Mystery of release

 

The circumstances of Metzger’s release are still unclear.

 

While the Kyrgyz interior ministry said its forces had rescued her, the police said that Metzger was found after she knocked on the door of a house outside the capital and said she had been kidnapped.

 

However Metzger’s father-in-law, Kelly Mayo, said she was found on the side of the road with her head shaven.

 

“I know she's coherent, and whoever had her let her go. We've got her back. Praise the Lord,” he said.

 

A statement issued by the US military praised the Kyrgyz government, Bishkek law enforcement officials and the US embassy in the former Soviet republic “for the rapid and thorough investigation resulting in the successful recovery of Major Metzger.”

 

US and Kyrgyz officials have not said if Metzger was injured during her kidnapping of if they knew who was responsible for her four-day disappearance.