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Home News Swiss hostages arrive home after Pakistan escape

Swiss hostages arrive home after Pakistan escape

Published on 17/03/2012

A Swiss couple said to have escaped after being held captive by the Pakistani Taliban for more than eight months arrived home Saturday, Switzerland's foreign ministry said.

Policeman Olivier David Och, 31, and Daniela Widmer, 28, were welcomed at Zurich airport by family and friends, the ministry said, adding that they were in good health under the circumstances.

They also met members of the government team that had worked for their release in the eight months since they were abducted at gunpoint on July 1 last year in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan, apparently on holiday.

They wre quoted as saying they were happy to be free again and back in Switzerland, after an ordeal during which they feared for their lives.

They said they had decided to try to escape, despite the risks, after thinking about it for a long time.

Pakistani officials said Thursday they were found at a checkpoint in the tribal belt, a Taliban and Al-Qaeda stronghold on the Afghan border, but exactly what happened was clouded in mystery.

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter said in Bern on Thursday they had shown “great courage.”

He said no ransom was paid for the couple as Switzerland does not pay to free hostages.

The Pakistani Taliban had claimed the abduction, demanding that the hostages be exchanged for Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist jailed in 2010 in New York for the attempted murder of US government agents in Afghanistan.

A video emerged in October of the couple flanked by four masked gunmen pointing rifles at their heads.

Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, attracts few tourists because of separatist violence and Taliban activity.

Switzerland has advised against non-essential travel to Pakistan since 2008, citing risks including the threat of kidnapping.

Five foreigners remain kidnapped in Pakistan: an American, a Briton, a German, an Italian and a Kenyan, all aid and development workers.