NEW video emerges of U.S. soldier held by the Taliban for 18 months

Unlike the previous video last April, Private Bowe Bergdahl, 24, is now beardless despite captors’ claim he has converted to Islam.

UK DAILY MAIL-New pictures of a U.S. soldier who has been held in captivity in Afghanistan for 18 months have been released today.

Private Bowe Bergdahl, 24, has converted to Islam and adopted the Muslim name Abdullah, according to his captors. But he appeared without a beard in the latest footage and is seen with a quite significant wound on his left cheek.

The serviceman is looking thin but otherwise healthy alongside Taliban commander Maulawi Sangin who has previously threatened to kill him. It remains unclear how when the video was shot or where he is being held.

Pte Bergdahl disappeared in June 2009 while on duty in the eastern part of the country when he was aged 23 and is thought to be the only U.S. soldier in captivity. Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Marsano confirmed the serviceman’s family had seen the new video and said it was him.

The footage lasts for almost 45 minutes and Bergdahl can be seen wearing an open-necked tan shirt and has a significant wound just below his left eye.

But unlike in the three previous releases he is not the main subject of the video.

According to his captors the Private has reportedly given Taliban insurgents training in bomb-making and ambush skills. Haji Nadeem, a Taliban deputy district commander in Paktika, claimed in August that Bergdahl is now a Muslim.

He said the soldier had shown him how to dismantle a mobile phone and turn it into a remote control for a roadside bomb – and had given him basic ambush training.

Nadeem said: ‘Most of the skills he taught us we already knew. ‘Some of my comrades think he’s pretending to be a Muslim to save himself so they wouldn’t behead him.’

Eight Taliban gunmen apparently kidnapped him when he left his post in Paktika’s Yahya Khel district with an Afghan soldier. Bergdahl was forced to strip and put on different clothing before being taken away. The Afghan soldier was killed.

He was ‘very concerned’ he would be beheaded when he was first captured according to Nadeem, but is now ‘much more relaxed’ in the company of the insurgents. In a seven minute video released in April, Bergdahl said the war in Afghanistan was not worthwhile. ‘I’m a prisoner. I want to go home,’ he said.

APRIL 2010