U.S. charges Afghan man with kidnapping former NYT reporter

Pete Williams and Jonathan Dienst and Tom Winter

U.S. prosecutors charged a man they say was the commander of kidnappers who held David Rohde, then a reporter for The New York Times, for more than seven months in 2008-09. The man was to appear in a Manhattan court Wednesday afternoon.

The Justice Department unsealed the criminal charges Wednesday against Haji Najibullah, 42, of Afghanistan, who faces a six-count indictment charging him with conspiracy to take a hostage, kidnapping, conspiracy to kidnap and two counts of possessing a machine gun.

Najibullah was apprehended in Ukraine.

Rohde, who is now with The New Yorker, and two people — an Afghan reporter and their driver — were kidnapped outside Kabul in November 2008. Rohde, who was researching a book about the history of America's involvement in Afghanistan, was on his way to interview a Taliban commander when armed men surrounded their car and took them hostage.

The grand jury indictment says Najibullah recorded videos of Rohde begging for help while pointing the barrel of a machine gun at his face. Najibullah faces life in prison if convicted.

Rohde escaped in June 2009 by climbing over the wall of the compound where he was held in Pakistan. He managed to get to a Pakistani military outpost and was flown to the U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan.

Rohde, now an executive editor at The New Yorker, and his wife, Kristen Mulvihill, wrote a book about the ordeal, "Rope and a Prayer: The Story of a Kidnapping," in which he described his captivity and escape and she wrote about her efforts to free him.