US unseals charges over kidnapping of journalists in Afghanistan

The US claims Haji Najibullah was involved in the 2008 kidnapping of a US journalist and two Afghan nationals.

This file photo from 1996 shows David Rohde, then of The Christian Science Monitor, at a mass grave site in Kravice, Bosnia [File: Vadim Ghirda/AP Photo]

The US Justice Department on Wednesday unsealed an indictment charging Haji Najibullah, an Afghanistan national, with six counts related to the 2008 kidnapping of an American journalist and two Afghan nationals.

The department added that Najibullah, 44, was arrested and transferred to the United States from Ukraine where he will face trial.

The indictment does not name the journalist, but a law enforcement official familiar with the matter told Reuters News Agency the case involves David Rohde, a former Reuters and New York Times correspondent now with the New Yorker who was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2008.

Najibullah is facing charges, including hostage taking, conspiracy to commit hostage taking, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and two counts of using and possessing a machine gun in furtherance of crimes of violence.

Mark Gombiner, a Manhattan-based federal public defender listed in court records as Najibullah’s lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Rohde also did not respond to a request for comment.

The indictment says that in November 2008, Najibullah “caused” a group of men carrying machine guns to detain Rohde and two Afghans who were helping him. Later, the indictment says, Najibullah and approximately six armed guards forced the journalist and the Afghans to hike across the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan.

The kidnapping victims were not identified by authorities, but the description matched the kidnapping of Rohde and an Afghan journalist, Tahir Ludin, as they were heading to interview a Taliban leader.

Both made a dramatic escape from a Taliban-controlled compound in Pakistan’s tribal areas more than seven months after their kidnapping. Their driver, Asadullah Mangal, was the third kidnapping victim and escaped a few weeks after Ludin and Rohde.

In a photo off television, David Rohde, now with the New Yorker, speaks in 1995 after Bosnian Serbs released him after being held captive for almost two weeks [APTV via AP Photo]

Najibullah and other kidnappers forced the victims to make numerous calls and videos seeking help during their captivity as they demanded money from Rohde’s family and the release of Taliban prisoners by the US, the indictment said.

The indictment says that in April 2009, while in Pakistan, Najibullah recorded at least three videos of the journalist begging for help while a machine gun was pointed at his face.

Source: News Agencies