An Australian teacher who arrived home last week after being held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan for more than three years believes U.S. Navy SEALs attempted to rescue him six times, he told a press conference on Dec. 1.
Timothy Weeks, 50, landed in Sydney on Nov. 28 after being released by the terror group last month as part of a prisoner exchange deal with the United States, Australia, and the Afghan government.
Weeks and his 63-year-old U.S. colleague, Kevin King, were exchanged for three high-profile members of the Taliban, including Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of the terrorist group’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani.
“I believe, and I hope that this is correct, that they [Navy SEALs] came in six times to try to get us, and that a number of times, they missed us only by hours,” Weeks said, speaking publicly for the first time since his release.
Weeks, who is originally from Wagga Wagga in the state of New South Wales, described hearing explosions and machine-gun fire during one of the purported rescue attempts in April.
He said he was awakened at 2 a.m. by one of his guards, who told him they were under attack by “Daesh” (an alternate acronym for the ISIS terrorist group), and was rushed into a tunnel under where he was being held.
Recalling the attack, he said: “I believe now that it was the Navy SEALs coming in to get us. I believe they were right outside our door. The moment that we got into the tunnels, we were one or two 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 and King were abducted at gunpoint in August 2016 outside the American University in Kabul, where they worked as teachers. The Taliban posted a video of the two hostages one year later in which Weeks can be seen pleading with Australia’s then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to negotiate his release.
U.S. forces later confirmed that they had attempted to rescue men at a hideout belonging to a terrorist group in Afghanistan in September 2016, but the prisoners had been moved by the time they arrived.
Weeks said that during their captivity, he and King were regularly moved to new locations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that their lives were constantly at risk.
Weeks insisted he never gave up hope of being rescued, telling reporters: “If you give up hope, there is very little left for you. I knew that I would leave that place eventually. It just took a little longer than I expected.”
The teacher thanked Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and U.S. President Donald Trump for their help in securing his and King’s release. Weeks also thanked the leader of the Taliban and his Taliban guards, who he said treated him well.
“I know a lot of people don’t admit this, but for me, they were soldiers and soldiers obey the commands of their commanders,” he said.
“They don’t get a choice. They were there because they were ordered to come and look after me. Some of them were so compassionate and such lovely, lovely people.”
Weeks reportedly underwent an extensive medical examination at an undisclosed location after his release and arrived home after being transferred from a U.S. military base in Germany.