Recently freed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is said to have converted to Islam and declared himself a “mujahid” or warrior for Islam, Fox News reported on Thursday, citing secret documents.
The news channel, which described these documents as based on eyewitness accounts, said Bergdahl saw his relationship with the captors transform from hostile to cordial.
“He became much more of an accepted fellow,” Fox News cited a source, adding he was even reportedly allowed to carry a gun at times.
According to the documents, Bergdahl was successful in one of his escape attempts, during which he stayed away for five days, but when he was re-captured, he was confined to a metal cage "like an animal."
But he was also reported to have played soccer with the Taliban fighters, “taking part in AK-47 target practice and being permitted to carry a firearm of his own, laughing frequently and proclaiming ‘Salaam,’ the Arabic word for ‘peace’.”
Fox News was not the only U.S. news outlet which reported Bergdahl as being on friendly terms with the Taliban.
Another U.S.-based right wing website, Breitbart, cited a 2010 article from the UK’s Daily Mail saying that Bergdahl converted to Islam and taught Taliban fighters how to make bombs.
The Daily Mail at the time interviewed a Taliban deputy district commander, who called himself Haji Nadeem, who said Bergdahl taught him how to dismantle a mobile phone and turn it into a remote control for a roadside bomb.
The information is not confirmed and the Taliban have not commented so far about him adhering to Islam after his release.
A Taliban spokesman told the Associated Press that Bergdahl was treated well during his captivity, confirming that he was allowed to play soccer with the men holding him.
Spokesman Zaibullah Mujahid told The Associated Press by telephone on Friday that Bergdahl was held under “good conditions,” and was given fresh fruit and any other foods he requested. “You can ask him in America about his life [in captivity]. He will not complain,” Mujahid said.
A senior Taliban commander also spoke with The Time magazine, explaining how his group treated the released American sergeant.
“You know we are also human beings and have hearts in our bodies,” the senior Taliban commander, who kept his name anonymous, told The Time in an interview published Friday.
“We are fighting a war against each other, in which [the Americans] kill us and we kill them. But we did whatever we could to make [Bergdahl] happy,” he added.
According to the commander, Bergdahl learned basic Pashto and had made several friends among his Taliban captors.
When Bergdahl was shown in a Taliban video documenting his release last week, he was wearing a turban - draped across his shoulder – which was given to him by the fundamental group.
“We wanted him to return home with good memories,” said the commander.
But Bergdahl returned home to a lackluster welcome.
In Idaho, where he is from, a party scheduled for June 28 was canceled amid claims that the sergeant had deserted his post.
Authorities said they also received large numbers of messages of protest and complaint. Police chief Jeff Gunter told Reuters he received a phone call from a police chief in Tennessee, who said: “What the hell’s your problem for supporting this deserter?”
Since Bergdahl’s release, senior officials, including President Barack Obama, have said the prisoner swap that involved the release of five high-profile Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, and which has caused furor in the United States, was hastened by concerns that the soldier’s physical health was deteriorating.SHOW MORE