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US Air Force officer reportedly beaten in Kyrgyzstan

Maj Jill Metzger, who went missing earlier this week near Bishkek, has been found alive and said she was abducted and beaten.

india Updated: Sep 09, 2006 14:43 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press

A female US Air Force officer who went missing earlier this week near the Kyrgyz capital has been found alive, reportedly saying she had been abducted, officials said Saturday.

Maj Jill Metzger, 33, knocked on the door of a house in Kant, a town about 35 kms from the capital, Bishkek, shortly before midnight on Friday and told its residents she had been abducted, Kyrgyz Deputy Interior Minister Omurbek Suvanaliyev said.

Metzger, who disappeared while shopping for souvenirs in Bishkek on Tuesday, told Kyrgyz law enforcement agents she had been seized by three young men and a woman in a minibus and held in a rural area about 50 kms from the capital.

She was exhausted and her hair had been dyed, Suvanaliyev said. Metzger's disappearance had baffled investigators, and the military had 22 special agents looking for her.

A Kyrgyz police official, Kemilbek Kiyazov, said Metzger told police that while she was in a popular department store someone placed an unspecified object in the rear pocket of her trousers. Writing on the object said it was a bomb.

The message also gave detailed instructions telling her where to go in Bishkek, which she followed, Kiyazov quoted Metzger as saying.

"Metzger stated that it was as if she were in a trance," he said. She was then met by three men and a woman who put her into a vehicle, took her to a residence, and placed her in a dark room.

According to Kiyazov, Metzger managed to escape after an abductor brought her food and she struck him.

This account differed from one given by Metzger's father-in-law, Kelly Mayo, who told the agency in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations said she was found on the side of the road with her head shaven. He also indicated she had been kidnapped and beaten.

"I know she's coherent, and whoever had her let her go," Mayo said. "We've got her back. Praise the Lord."

It wasn't immediately clear why the two accounts differed. Capt Anna Carpenter, a spokeswoman at the US air base at Bishkek's Manas airport where Metzger had been temporarily stationed, said Metzger was in "stable condition."

She was taken several hours later to another base in the region, Carpenter said, but declined to give the name of the base. Manas is the only US base in Kyrgyzstan.

"We are elated to have Jill back with us," the military's statement quoted the base commander, Col Scott Reese, as saying. Mayo said Metzger's husband, Air Force Capt Joshua Mayo, was overjoyed when he was told Friday that his wife had been found.

"I can't even describe it. He's just beside himself, just unbelievable joy," Mayo said.

Metzger was serving a four-month stint at the Bishkek base with the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing. She had been scheduled to return to her US base in Georgia on Friday.

Military officials said Metzger was a newlywed and was to travel with her husband to Jamaica for a belated 10-day honeymoon after she returned to the US.

The US military has maintained an air base at Kyrgyzstan's main civilian airport since 2001, backing operations in nearby Afghanistan.

First Published: Sep 09, 2006 14:43 IST