'We're obviously overjoyed': Canadian released from captivity in Afghanistan
Published Monday, January 11, 2016 1:41PM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 11, 2016 10:12PM EST
Ottawa says it has helped secure the release of a Canadian man held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion announced Monday, that Colin Rutherford will soon be coming home. Rutherford was first reported missing in 2010.
"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."
Rutherford's brother, Brian, told The Canadian Press that he and his family were ecstatic.
"We're obviously overjoyed at the news today, and we're very thankful to everyone whose hard work has assisted in Colin's safe release," said Brian Rutherford.
In his statement, Dion also thanked the government of Qatar for its assistance in the case, but gave no details on how Rutherford was freed.
The Foreign Affairs minister added that the Canadian government will provide Rutherford with consular assistance as he makes his way home.
In May, 2011, the Taliban released a video of Rutherford, whom they accused of working for the Canadian government.
In the video, Rutherford described himself as a 26-year-old auditor with a science degree.
His captors asked his religion and he said that he had none.
They also asked why he had travelled to Afghanistan and he responded that it was because he had an interest in historical sites.
At the time of his capture, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Rutherford travelled to Afghanistan as a tourist, despite warnings advising Canadians to avoid the country.
Qatar's involvement with Rutherford's release is unsurprising given previous cases where the Persian Gulf country has acted as mediator between western governments and the Taliban.
The Islamist group has openly kept a political office in Qatar's capital since 2013.
One prominent example took place in 2014, when the Obama administration sought help from the Qataris to broker secret negotiations with the Taliban for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl is the only U.S. Army soldier who was taken captive during the Afghan war, and the circumstances surrounding the incident have become the subject of the popular podcast Serial.
In an interview on CTV's Power Play, Steve Day, a former commanding officer of the Canadian Special Operation Forces, said that the government likely sought help from the Qatari's because Canada is on "a bit of an island in North America -- far from a lot of these problems" and often needs to rely on other nations for help with security operations.
And it was help, Day said, that the Qataris were likely eager to provide.
"The Qatari government, and a number of governments in the Middle East, are keen to try to help facilitate and be seen to be helping Western nations when they run into trouble," he said.
Day said he didn't want to speculate on whether the Canadian government had paid a ransom for Rutherford's release.
The previous Conservative government denied making any payment when it secured the release of diplomats and Bob Fowler and Louis Guay from al Qaeda's North African branch in 2009.
However, the claim was later contradicted by an al Qaeda letter to the original kidnappers, which was obtained by The Associated Press, saying the group received $1 million in the exchange.
Day also said that the Canadian military likely didn't stage a rescue because of a dearth of intelligence in the area.
"When you're looking at trying to release somebody from thousands of kilometres away, you really want to understand what's going on the ground before you put more Canadians in harm's way," he said.
"Trying to launch this from Canada -- or any other nation -- to go into somewhere where you're not 100 per cent sure what is going on is extremely difficult, now that the Canadian Forces have withdrawn from Afghanistan, in particular," he added.
With files from The Canadian Press