Yesterday we learned that New York Times reporter David Rohde, secretly held captive by the Taliban for months, had escaped when he merely "climbed over a wall." Now details of a more complex and daring escape have emerged.
Rohde and Afghan journalist Tahir Ludin were captured along with their driver, Asadullah Mangal, on November 10th of last year in route to interview a Taliban commander for a book Rohde was working on. Ludin said in an interview with the New York Times that he and Rohde had become demoralized, even briefly suicidal, over what they saw as a "hopeless" situation involving captors who seemed intent on never releasing them. Facing either death or years of captivity at the hands of their captors, Rohde and Ludin began plotting an escape through careful inspection of their surroundings over the course of their imprisonment. Ludin went so far as to fake an illness to be taken to see a doctor outside of the complex in which they were held. He also convinced his captors to allow him to attend local cricket matches by lying about his love for the sport. Finally, on Friday night, Rohde and Ludin challenged the Taliban soldiers bunking in their room to a board game match with the intention of keeping them up late so that they'd sleep soundly. Then they made their move.
At 1 a.m., Mr. Rohde woke Mr. Ludin and sneaked out of the room. Mr. Ludin recited several verses of the Koran and followed him. They made their way to the second floor, and Mr. Ludin got to the top of a five-foot-high wall.
When Mr. Ludin looked down, he said, he was greeted by an unnerving view: a 20-foot drop.
Mr. Rohde handed Mr. Ludin a rope that he had found two weeks earlier and had hidden from the guards. They fastened the rope to the wall, and Mr. Ludin lowered himself along the rope before unclenching his fists for good.
He crashed to the ground, leaving him with a sprained right foot and other injuries. He cut his foot, he said, pointing to his swollen and heavily bruised ankle and his bandaged big toe.
Mr. Rohde then lowered himself along the wall and jumped down without injury, Mr. Ludin said.
When asked why their captives did not hear the thump of their impact with the ground, Mr. Ludin said they waited to make the escape attempt on a night when the city had electrical power. At night, an old, noisy air-conditioner that ran masked the sound.
Ludin said that he and Rohde then walked through the town, dodging angry dogs along the way, to a Pakistani militia post, where they were taken in.
We imagine that Stephen Gaghan is probably working on the script for this right now, likely hung up on trying to decide whether or not to go with Pictionary or Trivial Pursuit: Terrorist Edition to sexy up the board game scene. Then again, Cranium can be pretty damn exhausting.
With a Plan and a Rope, Captives Fled From Taliban [New York Times]