Book Recounts Terror Inside And Outside Captivity Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent David Rohde was captured by the Taliban in 2008. Seven months later, he mounted a daring escape. Now Rohde and his wife, Kristen Mulvihill, have written about their separate experiences dealing with his capture in the new book A Rope and a Prayer.
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Book Recounts Terror Inside And Outside Captivity

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Book Recounts Terror Inside And Outside Captivity

Book Recounts Terror Inside And Outside Captivity

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

GUY RAZ, Host:

Kristen Mulvihill was married to the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent David Rohde for just two months when she received a call back in 2008. David Rohde's brother, Lee, was on the line.

KRISTEN MULVIHILL: Lee is the person my husband has designated as first point of contact for all worst-case scenarios. In the event of a mishap during a reporting trip, the plan is that Lee will be alerted and will in turn contact me. He tells me that David never returned from his last interview in Kabul, a meeting he had arranged with a Taliban commander.

RAZ: And Kristen Mulvihill and David Rohde join me. Welcome.

MULVIHILL: Thank you.

DAVID ROHDE: Thank you.

RAZ: David, first to you. Can you set the scene for us? I mean, you had just been married, but you got this opportunity to interview a Taliban commander about an hour outside of Kabul for a book that you were working on. What happened?

ROHDE: They ordered them to get in the back seat with me. One of the Taliban jumps in the front seat behind the steering wheel. Another one jumps in the passenger seat and he was sort of pointing his Kalashnikov at us. And we, with them at the wheel, we sped off down the road.

RAZ: You write that that was an ethical lapse.

ROHDE: And I was on the final stage of this book, I think I lost perspective. I was trying to write something that I hoped would be the culmination of seven years of reporting, and the reason since 2001. But she was my new wife and I, you know, made a mistake. I should have told her.

RAZ: I know, Kristen, that you must have - your focus was about getting David out. But were you angry with him or did you just sort of defer that?

MULVIHILL: No, initially, I was shocked. We had each both taken a vow, and I took that very seriously. And I was a little angry. But I quickly realized that, you know, the blame for the kidnapping is on the kidnappers. Nobody suffered more from David's decision to go to the interview than David himself.

RAZ: What was going through your mind when you realized that you were no longer in Afghanistan?

ROHDE: Foreigners and many more Afghans and Pakistanis have been brought to the tribal areas of Pakistan. And it's a complete safe haven for the Taliban. And I knew we could be held for years or killed there.

RAZ: This book is written basically as two separate books. Kristen, it's your account of being in New York and of dealing with and working with the New York Times' lawyers...

MULVIHILL: Right.

RAZ: Early on, the Times made a decision that it was best to keep David's abduction secret.

MULVIHILL: Well, actually, the family had requested that it stay private, and the Times honored that.

ROHDE: When you're dealing with insurgents and militants that want to defy Western public opinion, publicity just raises their expectations, it doesn't shame them. And it is better to keep the cases quiet.

RAZ: I mean, very few people knew about this.

MULVIHILL: Yes, I mean, there was amazing camaraderie among his colleagues. And I think, you know, the Times had worked with other news organizations in the past who had reporters held and they did not report on it. So there was a real reciprocity and that was a tremendous benefit.

ROHDE: But my captors found him on Google and announced to me: Your brother is the president of an aviation firm that manufactures jumbo jets. And if your brother would just sell one jumbo jet, you know, they could pay the millions of dollars in ransom we want.

RAZ: You write that you actually were surprised at how radical they were, that you had the impression beforehand that the Taliban included a sizable faction of moderates.

ROHDE: I was held in the same place where Faisal Shahzad, the young man who failed to set off a bomb in Times Square, was trained. It's North Waziristan. And the U.S. has asked the Pakistani army to go in there, and they have not to date.

RAZ: So, David, at one point did you come to the conclusion that escape was the only way out?

ROHDE: I would say about in the last, you know, couple of months. Our guards got lax and our captors moved us to a house that was only roughly 3/10ths of a mile from the one Pakistani military base in Miran Shah.

RAZ: Can you describe how you did it?

ROHDE: It was sort of simple plan and it was in stages, 'cause we were sure it would go wrong. Myself and the Afghan journalist basically agreed that I would get up first and pretend I was going to the bathroom and see if our guards woke up.

RAZ: This is Tahir Ludin, the journalist you were working with.

ROHDE: And then someone picked up the phone and this unfamiliar voice said hello. and I realized it was actually my mother-in-law. And she did an extraordinary job of taking down, you know, the name of the base, exactly where we were. And then Kristen did an incredible job of then making sure we actually got off that base to safety.

RAZ: It must have been - I mean, I can't imagine how terrifying that must have been.

ROHDE: And I just - I don't want most, you know, readers and people to think this represents - that our kidnappers represent most Afghans and Pakistanis. They don't. They're a very small, very dangerous, very extreme group that's using religion to gain political power.

RAZ: David, Kristen, thank you so much.

MULVIHILL: Thank you.

ROHDE: Thank you.

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