UK & World News

  • 6 June 2014, 14:18

Bergdahl 'Played Soccer' With Taliban Captors

The Taliban has insisted that freed US solider Bowe Bergdahl was held under "good conditions" during his five years in captivity in Afghanistan.

Spokesman Zaibullah Mujahid told news agency AP that Sgt Bergdahl was given fresh fruit and any other foods he requested.

He said the soldier had enjoyed playing football and reading, including English-language books about Islam.

The spokesman said: "You can ask him in America about his life (in captivity). He will not complain."

Sgt Bergdahl is currently recovering in a US military hospital in Germany following his release last week which was hastened by reports that his health was deteriorating.

The US military has said it is unable to disclose details of the 28-year-old's medical condition due to patient privacy laws.

However the Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre has said he is now "showing signs of improvement" and is in a stable condition.

It said he is engaging with medical staff "and becoming more engaged in his treatment-care plan".

Nevertheless it remains unclear when the soldier will travel back to the US and it is thought he has not yet spoken to his parents.

Sgt Bergdahl arrived at the medical facility on Saturday, a day after he was released in exchange for five high-profile Taliban militants from Guantanamo Bay. They were flown to Qatar, where they are to remain for a year.

The terms of the deal have been met with considerable criticism in the US amid speculation over how Sgt Bergdahl came to be captured.

Claims that Sgt Bergdahl was seized after deserting fellow troops have led to the cancellation of his homecoming party in Idaho.

The Obama administration has also faced a considerable political backlash over the deal, with senators dismayed they did not receive prior notification. Mr Obama is required to give 30 days' notice before any Guantanamo Bay detainees are released.

However, he has defended the decision to secure a swap.

Mr Obama said on Thursday: "We have a basic principle we don't leave anybody wearing the American uniform behind.

"We had a prisoner of war whose health had deteriorated and we were deeply concerned about it and we saw an opportunity and we seized it. And I make no apologies for that.

"We had discussed with Congress the possibility that something like this might occur, but because of the nature of the folks that we were dealing with and the fragile nature of these negotiations we felt it was important to go ahead and do what we did."

Senators were reportedly told in a classified briefing on Wednesday that the Taliban had threatened to kill the soldier if plans for the trade were leaked.

The Taliban spokesman could not confirm this report to news agency AP.

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