By MATTHEW COLE and JIM VOJTECH
Bowe Bergdahl pleaded for his freedom in a newly released video, telling the camera, "I want to go home." The video is the most recent proof that the 24-year-old American solder, taken captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan last summer, may be still alive.
Bergdahl, an Army private from Idaho, was captured by Afghan insurgents on June 30 after wandering off from his post near the Pakistan border. Three Afghan soldiers were captured with Bergdahl. All are said to be in captivity.
Shortly after Bergdahl was taken prisoner, his captors filmed him making a brief statement and drinking tea and released the tape on the internet. They released a second video in December.
In the new video, Bergdahl is bearded and dressed in military issue clothing. He holds up a newspaper, but the date of the paper's publication is not visible.
Bergdahl also performs push-ups to demonstrate his physical condition and says he is being treated well, despite being a prisoner.
But Bergdahl begins to lose his composure as he talks to the camera.
"Release me please, I'm begging you," he says.
"I love my family. I haven't shown it very well because I've been pretty lost in my life and I don't think I've given my family the love that they've given me."
"Let me go," pleads Bergdahl.
Col. Tim Marsano of the Idaho Nat'l Guard, the media contact for Bowe Bergdahl's family, said that the family "is copying with this new development."
"As you can imagine," said Col. Marsano, "the last nine-plus months have been extremely difficult for the Bergdahls and they do take comfort in the words and actions of their family, their friends, the community in the Wood River Valley and from all of the cards, letters and e-mails they have received from all over the world."
A spokesman for international forces in Afghanistan called the use of Pfc. Bergdahl for propaganda "a deplorable act," and said it only fueled efforts to find him. "The insurgents who hold Bowe are obviously using him as a means to ultimately cause pain to his family and friends," said Gregory Smith, director of communications for NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
Bergdahl says on the tape that he is in Afghanistan, but U.S. and Afghan sources involved in the search for Bergdahl believe he has been held in Pakistan for most of his captivity.
Bergdahl is the only known serviceman captured since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. According to a person actively involved in the search, a top Afghan insurgent commander has taken credit for capturing the soldier and is holding him in the Pakistani tribal areas.
Bergdahl was taken by Mullah Sangeen's men from village near the U.S. military post in Paktika, where he was stationed, according to a senior Afghan Army official in the province. The captors "punched and hit the soldier after some resistance. But than they were able to take the soldier and left all of his things: weapon, body armor and radios." The Afghan official says Bergdahl and the three Afghan National Army soldiers were moved from the near-by village and quickly vanished.
Additional reporting by Nick Schifrin