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Full Version: Freed Chinese hostage recalls life in captivity
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BEIJING: The recently freed Chinese engineer has said he had hidden a knife to commit suicide in case his Taliban captors in Swat decided to take his life.

Long Xiao Wei, who returned to China a few days ago, told a Chinese language newspaper in his first interview after his release that he lived in horror during his captivity in Swat. “I thought the Taliban would kill me. I was mentally prepared to die,” he said.

The young engineer complained that he didn’t take a shower for almost half a year that he spent in Taliban captivity. During this period, he said, he hadn’t changed his clothes. He added that he wasn’t given any meat and was fed only vegetables.

However, Long Xiao Wei made it clear that he wasn’t tortured. He said he cooperated with the Taliban and did whatever he was asked to do. “I always kept smiling. This endeared me to my captors,” he remarked.

The Chinese engineer recalled that he fell and broke his leg while trying to escape during the night on October 17 last year. He said the Taliban recaptured him while his Chinese colleague, Zhang Guo, managed to escape. He said the Taliban arranged some simple treatment for his fractured leg but it didn’t cure him fully.

He pointed out that the Taliban became strict and kept him in a tunnel following his failed attempt to escape from their captivity. He thought another reason to lodge him in the tunnel was to ensure that he wasn’t killed in shelling and bombing carried out occasionally by the Pakistan Army artillery guns and helicopters. He recalled that once the tunnel collapsed and the Taliban thought that he had died. But he survived and was subsequently lucky enough to return home alive.

Long Xiao Wei, who belongs to Shanxi province in China, was in a wheel-chair when he was interviewed by the Chinese newspaper. He complained that he couldn’t move and would be needing surgery on his leg. Despite his broken leg and long captivity, the Chinese journalist who interviewed him wrote that Long Xiao Wei was in high spirits.

He and Zhang Guo, both less than 30-year-old, while working for a Chinese telecommunication company in Khal area of Upper Dir district were kidnapped by the Taliban in September 2008. They were taken to Swat Valley and mostly kept in the Shwar and Peochar areas beyond Matta town. The Maulana Fazlullah-led Swat Taliban demanded release of their 136 prisoners and a huge amount as ransom money in exchange for the two Chinese hostages but the Pakistan government refused to make a deal with them. Zhang Guo, who was older than Long Xiao Wei and spoke a few words of English, managed to escape and took refuge at the house of a landlord, Liaquat Ali Khan, in Chinglalai village near Matta. The Taliban subsequently murdered Liaquat Ali Khan for protecting the Chinese engineer and handing him over to the Pakistan Army officials at the Venai checkpost located close to Matta town.

In his interview, Long Xiao Wei expressed ignorance about the terms of the deal that resulted in his sudden release by the Taliban. “Early morning on February 15, I was delivered to the military authorities who drove me to Islamabad and handed me over to the Chinese embassy. I am unaware as to how my release became possible,” he said.

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan confirmed that more than a dozen Taliban prisoners were freed by the government to secure the release of the Chinese engineer. Published reports also mentioned the government officials confirming the deal that secured freedom for the Chinese hostage. Though the Taliban had later reduced the number of their prisoners they wanted freed to around 40 in exchange for Long Xiao Wei, the reports suggested that 12 to 20 Taliban were eventually released. The ransom paid to the Taliban is a matter of speculation though most reports suggested that some money was given to the captors to secure the freedom for the Chinese engineer.

It appears that the government relented and agreed to some Taliban demands to secure release of the Chinese hostage following the execution of the kidnapped Polish engineer, Petr Staznack, by his Taliban captors belonging to Darra Adamkhel. There was real concern that the Swati Taliban could go ahead and execute the Chinese engineer if their demands weren’t met. Also, the government didn’t want another engineer from China to be killed in Pakistan after the accidental death of one of the two kidnapped Chinese engineers in a rescue mission by the Pakistan Army commandos in South Waziristan in 2004. The two Chinese engineers were working on a hydel-power-cum-irrigation project, Gomal Zam, in South Waziristan and Frontier Region Tank when five men loyal to Pakistani Taliban commander Abdullah Mehsud kidnapped him. One of the Chinese engineers was rescued while the five kidnappers were killed by the Pakistani military commandos.
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