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Soldier finally freed

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An American soldier held for half a decade in Afghanistan has been freed, in a swap for five Guantanamo detainees.

US President Barack Obama announced Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl will soon be welcomed home, after being captured in June 2009.

_Bowe-Bergdahl“On behalf of the American people, I was honoured to call his parents to express our joy that they can expect his safe return, mindful of their courage and sacrifice throughout this ordeal,” Obama said.

Bergdahl disappeared from a base in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktika province, with the Taliban later saying they had captured him.

The Idaho native was the only American soldier held captive by Taliban militants.

Obama expressed his “deepest appreciation” to the Emir of Qatar “for his assistance in helping to secure our soldier’s return.”

The president’s announcement came as Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel released a statement saying he had informed the US Congress of a decision to transfer five Guantanamo detainees to Qatar.

“The United States has coordinated closely with Qatar to ensure that security measures are in place and the national security of the United States will not be compromised,” Hagel said.

Hagel said Bergdahl was “now under the care of the US military after being handed over by his captors in Afghanistan”.

A senior administration official confirmed that, in connection with Bergdahl’s return, the United States had transferred five Afghan Guantanamo detainees to Qatar.

Since his capture, Bergdahl has appeared in several Taliban videos.

In January, the United States obtained a “proof of life” video of the soldier – the first concrete evidence in more than three years that he was still alive.