Monthly Archives: May 2014

US Army Sergeant Freed After Five Years in Taliban Captivity

John Moore/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been released after nearly five years of Taliban captivity, President Obama announced Saturday.

“On behalf of the American people, I was honored to call his parents to express our joy that they can expect his safe return, mindful of their courage and sacrifice throughout this ordeal,” Obama said in a written statement.

In a written statement Sgt. Bergdahl’s parents, Bob and Jani, thanked Obama and the Qatari emir, who helped facilitate the deal to release their son.

“We were so joyful and relieved when President Obama called us today to give us the news that Bowe is finally coming home! We cannot wait to wrap our arms around our only son. We want to thank Bowe’s many supporters in Idaho, around the nation and around the world. We thank the Amir of Qatar for his efforts. And of course, we want to take this opportunity to thank all those in the many U.S. Government agencies who never gave up. Today, we are ecstatic!” the Bergdahls wrote.

Bergdahl was discovered missing from his unit in Afghanistan in June 2009. He was declared to have been captured by the Taliban soon after.

His freedom was secured in exchange for the release of five prisoners from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, according to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who said on Saturday that Bergdahl is now under the care of the U.S. military.

“[T]oday, I informed Congress of the decision to transfer five detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar. The United States has coordinated closely with Qatar to ensure that security measures are in place and the national security of the United States will not be compromised. I appreciate the efforts of the Emir of Qatar to put these measures in place, and I want to thank him for his instrumental role in facilitating the return of Sgt. Bergdahl,” Hagel said.

At about 10:30 a.m. ET, U.S. special forces recovered Bergdahl from his captors, in a peaceful handoff in eastern Afghanistan, a senior Defense official told ABC News, recounting the operation. About 18 Taliban were present.

The U.S. forces flew to the meeting in helicopters, and once Bergdahl was aboard, he wrote on a paper plate (instead of talking over the noise of the rotors), “SF?” meaning, “Special Forces?”

The operators sitting with Bergdahl responded loudly, saying, “Yes, we’ve been looking for you for a long time.” Bergdahl broke down crying, the Defense official said.

The transfer was negotiated through local Qatari government representatives, not directly through the Haqqani network, the Taliban-supporting militant group that held Bergdahl. Talks of the exchange began about a week ago; several weeks ago, an opportunity arose for talks to resume, and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, brokered them.

The U.S. has received “appropriate assurances” that the five Guantanamo detainees will be secured in Qatar and will be subject to a travel ban for one year, the Defense official said. The White House has not yet responded to a request to clarify whether the Guantanamo detainees will be held in Qatari custody or free to live as legal residents. A Defense official confirms the five names: Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa, and Abdul Haq Wasiq.

The U.S. believes Bergdahl was held in Pakistan for the bulk of his captivity, the Defense official said.

Secretary of State John Kerry said he has “briefed” Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Bergdahl’s release and Obama’s recent announcement of plans to keep 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014, gradually drawing them down and limiting the U.S. mission there to training Afghan troops and conducting counterterrorism activities. Kerry welcomed Bergdahl’s release in a written statement.

“Our nation has a sober and solemn duty to ensure that every single American who signs up to serve our country comes home. The cost of years of captivity to Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and his family is immeasurable,” Kerry said. “Today, we are heartened that Sgt. Bergdahl will soon by reunited with his family and friends, from whom he has been apart for far too long.”

Since Bergdahl’s capture, his family has pressed for his release, and this year the Obama administration reportedly began considering a prisoner swap to get him freed, as ABC’s Good Morning America reported in February.

U.S. officials believed Bergdahl was being held somewhere in Pakistan and hoped to secure his release before U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan. In January, Bergdahl’s father launched a White House petition to secure his son’s freedom.

“Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield. And as we find relief in Bowe’s recovery, our thoughts and prayers are with those other Americans whose release we continue to pursue,” Obama said Saturday, thanking the emir of Qatar and the government of Afghanistan for helping to facilitate the release.

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Santa Barbara Killings: What We Know Now

Alex Stone/ABC News(SANTA BARBARA, Calif.) — The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office continues its internal investigation into how deputies dealt with Elliot Rodger before and after the college student went on a murderous spree last week, killing six people and injuring more than a dozen others.

Officials from the Sheriff’s Office confirmed that deputies did not view videos posted by Rodger, 22, a few weeks before the incident. Deputies visited Rodger at the end of April after his therapist contacted police about the videos the young man had posted to YouTube. Deputies found Rodger “timid and polite.” They also didn’t run run a weapons check on him.

Victim, Friend Describe Elliot Rodger
Bianca de Kock says she remembers Rodger’s “smirky, grimacy smile” before he started shooting. De Kock was walking home with two sorority sisters when Rodgers began to shoot at them. The University of Santa Barbara student was shot five times and both of de Kock’s sorority sisters, Veronika Weiss and Katherine Breann Cooper, were killed in the shooting.

“He wanted to do this,” she said in an exclusive interview with ABC News. “He looked happy about it.”

Rodger’s former roommate, Chris Rugg, said that he saw warning signs of violent behavior and frustration from Rodger. He also heard “clicking” sounds, likely from a gun, in Rodger’s room.

“There was a lot of just frustration for how he was not having a good time at school and how no one seemed to want to hang out with him, and it just got more and more serious,” Rugg told ABC News.

Elliot Rodger’s Parents Speak Out After the Shooting
Rodger’s parents, Peter Rodger and Chin Rodger said they are heartbroken over their son’s actions. “We are crying in pain for the victims and their families,” the statement reads. “It breaks our heart on a level we didn’t think possible. The feeling of knowing that it was our son’s actions that caused the tragedy can only be described as Hell on earth.”

According to close family friend Simon Astaire, Rodger’s parents are so devastated they can barely speak. “Literally, their speech is now stuttered,” Astaire said. “They’re unable to really articulate things in a full sentence.”

Peter Rodger was the assistant director for one of the Hunger Games films. Elliot Rodger grew up around red carpets and Hollywood glamor, but was socially awkward and isolated, his family said. He was treated by multiple therapists and was a student at Santa Barbara City College.

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Florida Auto Dealer Owner Shot Teen Who Tried Stealing Car, Police Say

iStock/Thinkstock(POMPANO BEACH, Fla.) — A South Florida auto dealer is out of jail on bond after police accused him of shooting an alleged car thief in the stomach despite the teen’s attempt to surrender.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office arrested Jonas Charles after the incident on May 24. The owner of JC Best Auto Sales in Pompano Beach, Fla., was booked on an attempted murder charge.

“He became judge, jury and executioner. It’s just not acceptable,” Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said.

Charles, 34, allegedly recruited a friend to wait with him at his car dealership after a group of thieves burglarized it the night before, stealing car keys and a few vehicles, according to an arrest report.

When the alleged thieves returned, Charles confronted them.

“A series of gunshots emanated. We don’t know how many,” Israel said.

Charles allegedly cornered two of the teens — a 15-year-old and a 13-year-old — between two box trucks, police said. The 15-year-old tried surrendering and raised his hands.

“He (Charles) shot him in the stomach,” Israel said.

When the wounded boy ran off, Charles kept shooting and chased after him, police said. The boy called 911, telling the dispatcher that he couldn’t breathe.

Charles initially denied having a gun or shooting the teen, instead blaming one of his friends, but he eventually admitted to it, detectives said, according to ABC affiliate WPLG-TV.

The 15-year-old boy is recovering. He and the 13-year-old will face burglary charges, according to police.

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