What to Know
- David Rohde, a former NYT reporter, and two Afghan nationals were abducted by Taliban members outside Kabul, Afghanistan, in November 2008, according to witness and other accounts
- Rohde and one of the others kidnapped, a local reporter in Afghanistan, escaped after more than seven months in captivity
- A 42-year-old Afghan national allegedly part of the crew that held them hostage has now been indicted in Manhattan federal court
An Afghan national and purported Taliban member has been arrested in connection with the 2008 kidnapping of Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter David Rohde in Afghanistan, prosecutors and sources familiar with the investigation tell News 4. He is being charged in Manhattan federal court.
An indictment unsealed in Southern District of New York court Wednesday charges Haji Najibullah with six counts connected to the 2008 kidnapping of an unidentified "American journalist," whom sources confirm to News 4 is David Rohde, and two Afghan nationals. Rohde was with them at the time.
Rohde was abducted along with Afghan reporter Tahir Ludin and their driver outside Kabul, where he had been researching a book, on Nov. 10, 2008. He escaped, along with Ludin, after more than seven months in captivity.
According to the indictment unsealed Wednesday, Najibullah and several co-conspirators forced their hostages to hike at gunpoint across the border to Pakistan, where they were held in the mountains for more than seven months.
During that time, Najibullah allegedly forced the victims to make multiple calls and videos seeking help. Nine days after the kidnapping, one victim, presumably Rohde, was forced to call his wife in New York. At other points, the hostages were videotaped at least three times begging for help while surrounded by masked guards armed with machineguns. In one, the victim identified as the American journalist (Rohde, according to sources), begged for his life with a gun at his face.
While the federal indictment doesn't identify Najibullah explicitly as a Taliban member, Ludin identified his captors as such shortly after his escape. He said in June 2009 that he and Rohde, who had been threatened with death, managed to trick their Taliban guards and drop down a 20-foot wall with a rope. He recounted the escape plans in detail to The New York Times. Rohde confirmed the accuracy of Ludin's account but declined to comment further at the time.
Najibullah is charged with hostage-taking, conspiracy to commit hostage-taking, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and two counts of using and possessing a machinegun in furtherance of crimes of violence. Each count carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. No attorney details for him were immediately available; it wasn't clear how he was apprehended or when he may have been brought to the United States.
Rohde, now 53, is currently is an executive editor for newyorker.com. He contributed to the Times' coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2008 that won a Pulitzer the following spring; he also earned a Pulitzer in 1996 for international reporting on the Srebrenica massacre during the war in Bosnia.