Timothy Weeks, an Australian professor who was recently freed by the Taliban in a prisoner swap said that the “long and tortuous ordeal” had an intense effect on him.
Speaking in a press conference in Sydney on Sunday, Weeks, 50, said that hope helped him survive the ordeal.
Weeks and Kevin King, the two professors at The American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) were abducted by the Taliban militant group in August 2016 outside the University in Kabul.
“At times, I felt as if my death was imminent and that I would never return to see those that I loved again,” Weeks said adding, “But, by the will of God, I am here. I am alive and I am safe. And I am free.”
“There is nothing else in the world that I need,” he said.
He said that he had never given up hope, although his freedom took longer than he expected.
“I never, ever gave up hope, and I think in that sort of situation, that if you give up hope, there is very little left for you,” said Weeks.
“I knew that I would leave that place eventually. It just took a little longer than I expected,” he added.
Weeks added that he believed that Navy SEAL teams tried repeatedly to rescue them, sometimes missing them only by “hours” after the two hostages were moved to other locations by their captors.
“I believe, and I hope this is correct, that they came in six times to try to get us, and that a number of times they missed us only by hours,” Weeks said.
One attempt came in April this year. Weeks said he was woken at 2 a.m. by his guards, who told him they were under attack from Islamic State fighters, and moved him into a tunnel beneath where they were being held.
“I believe now that it was the Navy SEALs coming in to get us,” Weeks said. “I believe they were right outside our door. The moment that we got into the tunnels, we were 1 or 2 meters underground and there was a huge bang at the front door. And our guards went up and there was a lot of machine-gun fire. They pushed me over the top into the tunnels and I fell backward and rolled and knocked myself unconscious.”
Weeks said he and King were shifted through various remote locations in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan throughout their captivity and were often kept in tiny, windowless cells.
“After almost 1,200 days our ordeal ended as abruptly as it had begun and a Black Hawk helicopter lifted me from the parched soils of Afghanistan. Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who worked on the long and complex process that led to our final release,” he said.
Weeks and King were freed in November 2019, in exchange for three senior Taliban militants including Anas Haqqani, Hafez Rashid, and Mali Khan. The prisoner exchange was part of an effort to develop good-will and confidence-building measures which may help the Afghan peace process.