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Swiss hostages safely return from Pakistan

GENEVA (AP) – A Swiss couple held hostage for eight months by the Taliban safely returned home Saturday, two days after escaping their captors in northwestern Pakistan, the Swiss Foreign Ministry said.

Daniela Widmer and David Och were greeted by family and friends after landing at Zurich airport, where they waved to waiting journalists. The ministry said the pair was doing well given the circumstances.

“We had to go through incredibly difficult moments that have marked us for our lifetimes. During all that time we felt the greatest uncertainty and feared for our lives,” the pair said in a written statement carried by the ministry.

The couple, both trained police officers, were traveling through Pakistan in a van when they were seized in July in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. They turned up at an army post close to the Afghan border Thursday, saying they managed to escape. Taliban commanders claimed a ransom was paid for their release.

Widmer, 29, and Och, 32, appeared in a militant video in October, saying their captors were threatening to kill them.

“After thinking about it for a long time we made the decision to dare an escape despite the great risks,” the couple’s statement read. “That is why we are free today.”

Militants and criminal gangs often kidnap wealthy Pakistanis and, less commonly, foreigners.

Large ransoms are often paid to secure their release, but such payments are rarely confirmed by authorities involved. There are at least five other foreigners being held hostage in Pakistan, including humanitarian aid workers.

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