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Freed academic taught Taliban captors’ children


Ajmal Khan, vice-chancellor of Islamia College University Peshawar, speaks with media in Peshawar on Friday, a day after his recovery from the Taliban was secured. Pakistani troops have recovered a prominent academic held for four years by the Taliban in the country's troubled northwest, officials said. The Pakistani Taliban abducted Ajmal Khan, vice-chancellor of Islamia College University Peshawar, the capital of northwestern troubled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in September 2010. Photo - AFP/A Majeed
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Peshawar: A Pakistani academic freed after four years in Taliban captivity on Friday told how he taught the militants' children maths and English and met their feared former leader Hakimullah Mehsud.

The Pakistani Taliban abducted Ajmal Khan, vice-chancellor of Islamia College University Peshawar, the capital of northwestern troubled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in September 2010.

A senior security official in Peshawar said that Khan was recovered from "an operational area in North Waziristan tribal district".

A statement from the Pakistan military said "security forces safely recovered Mr Ajmal Khan" but gave no details of how he came to be freed.

It said: "Security forces and intelligence agencies were trying to locate Ajmal Khan since 8 September 2010 when he was kidnapped in Peshawar while he was going to the university."

Khan, 63, was similarly reluctant to discuss details of his release but said he was delighted to be reunited with his family.

"Thanks be to the Almighty, I have come back to home," he told reporters.

"They did not torture me, but being away from home is itself a torture. I can't explain how it is to see my children after four years."

He said that during his captivity he had spent time with Mehsud, then the commander of the Tehreeke Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who was killed by a US drone in November 2013.

Khan, who wore a long beard and appeared in good health despite his long captivity, said the militants had treated him well, giving him medication for his heart condition and a radio to let him keep up with current affairs.

He had appeared in several video messages asking the government to negotiate his release with the TTP, which began a bloody insurgency against the state in 2007.

Government officials said despite many rounds of back-channel talks in the past, Taliban had refused to release Khan, demanding the release of important Taliban commanders held by security forces.

Khan said he got used to life in the remote locations where he was held and had even helped educate the militants' youngsters.

"I was very worried initially but then I adjusted to the situation—they used to make my contact with my family after every eight or nine months," he said.

"During the abduction, one day two children came to me and I started teaching them. The number of such children grew and at the end I was teaching English and maths to 32 of the Taliban's children."

Pakistan rights activists, university teaching staff and students in the northwest had protested against Khan's kidnapping many times but all efforts to recover him were futile.

Khan's release rekindled hopes for the sons of two prominent politicians held by the Talban, but he said he had no news of their fate.

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