Rohde’s Kidnapping Chronicle Ends With Incredible Escape

The final piece of New York Times journalist David Rohde’s Taliban kidnapping narrative was published today. It was the last piece we were waiting for — a description of his daring escape with Afghan journalist Tahir Luddin.

Rohde’s story would make an excellent adventure novel, but the reality of his captivity makes it too scary. In the last chapter of this five-part series, he recounts how he and Luddin used a rope to climb over the 15-foot wall surrounding a compound where they were being held in Pakistan, in the dead of night:

“Tahir tied the rope to the wall surrounding the roof. Placing his toe between two bricks, he climbed to the top and peered at the street below.

‘The rope is too short,’ he whispered after stepping down.

I shifted the knot on the rope to give it more length, pulled myself up on the wall and looked down at the 15-foot drop. The rope did not reach the ground, but it appeared close.

I glanced back at the stairs, fearing that the guards would emerge at any moment.

‘We don’t have to go,’ I repeated to Tahir. ‘It’s up to you.’

I got down on my hands and knees, Tahir stepped on my back and lifted himself over the wall. I heard his clothes scrape against the bricks, looked up and realized he was gone.

I grabbed his sandals, which he had left behind, and stuffed them down my pants. I climbed over, momentarily snagged a power line with my foot, slid down the wall and landed in a small sewage ditch. I looked up and saw Tahir striding down the street in his bare feet. I ran after him.”

Our heart just beat right out of our chest.

And whatever happened to Rohde’s driver Asad Mangal, who didn’t escape with Rohde and Luddin? He survived to escape later, as Rohde reveals in his epilogue

A Rope and a PrayerNew York Times

Publish date: October 22, 2009 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT