Hometown stays mum about captured U.S. soldier

Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, 23, appears in a video made by his captors, members of the Taliban.
Blaine County, Idaho, doesn’t care for gossip.

Celebrities from Ernest Hemingway to Demi Moore have resided in the county that boasts the exclusive Sun Valley ski resort and shows big respect for people’s privacy, its sheriff told CNN on Tuesday. When Blaine County residents learned about Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl’s capture several days ago, they kept a lid on it. And it looks like reporters won’t get much information anytime soon about the 23-year-old soldier whose fate now lies with the Taliban. “We have many high-profile people that live within our community. When you see a movie star going down the road, they don’t run up and ask for their autograph,” said Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling. “They respect people’s privacy, and that’s exactly what happened in this case.” Bergdahl was captured June 30 from Paktika province in southeastern Afghanistan, according to the U.S. Defense Department. The Taliban has threatened to kill him if foreign troops continue targeting civilians in the name of search operations in Ghazni and Paktika provinces, Taliban commander Mulvi Sangeen said by telephone Friday after CNN contacted him at an undisclosed location. NATO-led forces in Afghanistan and the U.S. military repeatedly have denied targeting civilians.

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The Bergdahl family is not speaking with the media. But Femling has been in close contact with the relatives and has addressed reporters’ questions about their reaction to a 28-minute video released Sunday showing the soldier. In the video, the soldier says that he is afraid he won’t be able to return home. “It’s like most of us — it was difficult to watch,” Femling said. “I don’t watch it anymore. It’d be nice if they didn’t play that video anymore.” Bergdahl appears to become emotional when he speaks of his family — his parents, siblings, nieces and nephew — and the girlfriend he hopes to marry. “I have a very, very good family that I love back home in America, and I miss them every day that I’m gone,” he says. “I miss them, and I’m afraid I might never see them again and that I’ll never be able to tell them I love them again. I’ll never be able to hug them. “I’m scared I won’t be able to go home. It is very unnerving to be a prisoner,” he says. However, his captors are treating him “like a guest,” he says. Asked by his captors if he has any message for Americans, the soldier says, “To my fellow Americans who have loved ones over here, who know what it’s like to miss them, you have the power to make our government bring them home. Please, please bring us home so we can be back where we belong and not over here.” It’s unclear if Bergdahl’s captors scripted some or all of his remarks. Watch an excerpt from the video » The Bergdahls are drawing strength from their community, the sheriff added Tuesday. “We are a tight group. The community just jumped right into action immediately,” he said. “Everywhere you drive there are yellow ribbons, they are passing yellow ribbons out, and that is comforting that all that positive energy, all their prayers, are going in Bowe’s direction.” A family friend said this week that Bergdahl should “stand tall, stand firm.” “Bowe, if you see this, know that we love you and we are praying fervently for you, and prayers are going up for you from all over the world,” Tim Baker told CNN affiliate KTVB-TV in the soldier’s hometown of Ketchum, Idaho. “To all of our valiant men and women, know that the American people believe in you, support you and are 100 percent behind you, and we thank God every day that you have our back.” Baker said, “It breaks our heart. It’s like having one of our own kids in this situation.” Watch the friend’s comments about the Taliban captive » Baker said prayer is helping the Bergdahls and their friends. “Prayer means that we are extremely powerful because God is not limited by where we are when we pray. He is there with Bowe, and so we know that he is protecting him and is with him, so we don’t feel powerless against these people,” Baker said. “We feel very empowered.” U.S. forces in Afghanistan are doing everything possible to free Bergdahl, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday. At a news conference, Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said they were disgusted at the video that Bergdahl’s captors released. The U.S. military said it believed Bergdahl may have been moved to various locations. In the video, Bergdahl’s captor makes reference to his being moved from Paktika to Khandahar. The claim could not be independently verified. Asked the date by his captor, Bergdahl says it is July 14. Days after the soldier went missing, a senior U.S. military official said low-level militants captured Bergdahl and then quickly “sold” him to a clan and network led by warlord Siraj Haqqani, who is believed to be deeply involved in the action. Bergdahl apparently left his small outpost on his own on June 30 with no apparent means of defending himself, the official said. Taliban commander Mulvi Sangeen said the soldier visited a military post in the Yousaf Khel district in the Paktika province, got drunk and was ambushed while returning to his car. Sangeen said the soldier was taken to a safe place. CNN could not independently verify Sangeen’s claims.

A source with the U.S. military denied the claim that Bergdahl was drunk. “The Taliban are known for lying and what they are claiming [is] not true,” the source said. In the video, Bergdahl says he was captured as he was lagging behind a patrol.