KABUL — A military dog captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan two months ago is in good health and being fed a diet of kebabs, his captors say.
The fate of the dog became the subject of widespread speculation after the Taliban posted an Internet video this week showing a chocolate Belgian Malinois, wearing a military-style black vest, surrounded by bearded militants in an undisclosed area of Afghanistan. The video was first identified Wednesday by the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks militant websites.
The Taliban claimed in a statement that the dog was seized in a firefight with international troops in eastern Laghman province on Dec. 23. It said the dog belonged to U.S. forces.
But British media reported that the dog belonged to British special forces. Like the U.S. military, British forces use the Malinois breed on the battlefield because of its agility and relatively light weight, often deploying the dogs to sniff for explosives.
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The insurgents sent by email a video showing a brown dog held on a leash by an armed Taliban fighter. The dog wore a black harness mounted with what the Taliban said was a video camera, and a voice-over said the dog was being called “Colonel.”
A Belgian Malinois named Cairo became a minor celebrity in 2011, when U.S. officials disclosed that it had been part of the Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden in a covert raid in Pakistan.
Lt. Col. Laurie Arellano, a spokeswoman for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan known as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said: “We can confirm that a military working dog went missing following an ISAF mission in December 2013.” She declined to specify which country the dog was from.
Coalition officials could not name another case of a canine taken prisoner during the 13-year war in Afghanistan.
President Hamid Karzai has chafed at international troops’ use of dogs because Afghans, like many other Muslims, regard the animal as unclean.
The Taliban statement said the dog was “outfitted with various electronic devices.”
Speaking to Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, a Taliban spokesman said Friday that the dog was being fed chicken and beef kebabs.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.