A Swiss couple held captive by the Pakistani Taliban for over eight months were on Thursday recovered safely, claiming they escaped their captors in the lawless tribal belt, the army said.
Olivier David Och, 31, and Daniela Widmer, 28, were abducted at gunpoint on July 1 in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, apparently on holiday.
Their blue Volkswagen van was found abandoned in Loralai district, around 170 kilometers (100 miles) east of the Baluchistan capital Quetta.
"They are safe and sound. We shifted them to Peshawar," army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told Agence France Presse, referring to the northwestern city close to the al-Qaida infested tribal belt where they were found early Thursday.
"They told us that they escaped and then they reported to our checkpost. That's what they told intelligence agencies currently debriefing them."
The Pakistani Taliban claimed the abduction in July, demanding that they be exchanged for Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuro-scientist sentenced in 2010 in New York for the attempted murder of U.S. government agents in Afghanistan.
But the details surrounding the couple's recovery were unclear.
Pakistani officials speaking to AFP before it emerged the couple claimed to have escaped, had not been able to say whether any ransom had been paid or demands from the Taliban had been accepted.
In October, a video emerged of the couple -- apparently in relatively good health -- flanked by four masked gunmen pointing rifles at their heads.
Pakistani officials said the Taliban released the couple in Spilga village in North Waziristan, the most notorious Taliban and al-Qaida stronghold in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt that borders Afghanistan.
"They were found near a checkpost on the main road early in the morning," one Pakistani security official told AFP.
Another intelligence official said the Swiss were then flown by helicopter to Peshawar.
Wali-ur Rehman, deputy head of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan faction that is linked to al-Qaida, had claimed the kidnapping, telling AFP in July that they were in "a very safe place" and "completely in good health.”
Siddiqui, dubbed "Lady Qaeda" by U.S. tabloids, was jailed for 86 years in 2010 after being found guilty of grabbing a rifle at an Afghan police station where she was being interrogated and opening fire on servicemen and FBI agents.
According to visas stamped in their passports, the Swiss couple arrived in Pakistan from India on June 28.
The pair entered Baluchistan from Punjab province and may have been heading for Quetta, possibly en route to Iran, officials in Islamabad have said.
Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, attracts few tourists due to separatist violence and Taliban activity.
Switzerland has advised against non-essential travel to Pakistan since 2008, citing risks including the threat of kidnapping.
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