January 11, 2016 / 7:54 PM / 2 years ago

Canadian man captured by Taliban five years ago freed: Ottawa

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian man whom the Taliban seized in Afghanistan five years ago and accused of being a spy has been released with the aid of Qatar, Foreign Minister Stephane Dion said on Monday.

Dion gave no more details about the operation to free Colin Rutherford, whose capture the Taliban announced in February 2011. In a video released in May that year, Rutherford - then 26 - said he was in Afghanistan as a tourist and denied working for the Canadian government.

“Canada is very pleased that efforts undertaken to secure the release of Colin Rutherford from captivity have been successful,” Dion said in a statement.

“We look forward to Mr. Rutherford being able to return to Canada and reunite with his family and loved ones,” he said, extending “heartfelt thanks” to the government of Qatar for its help.

Officials at the Qatari embassy in Ottawa were not immediately available for comment.

Exactly when Rutherford was taken prisoner is unclear.

Although the Taliban broke the news of his capture in early 2011, local media reports said he had gone missing in late 2010.

Canada maintained a military mission in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2011, during which 158 soldiers were killed.

In November 2008, Canadian Broadcasting Corp reporter Mellissa Fung was freed after being kidnapped a month earlier near the Afghan capital Kabul.

Fung said she was let go in exchange for relatives of her chief abductor who had been jailed by Afghan authorities after she was seized. Ottawa denied paying a ransom or exchanging political prisoners to secure her release.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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