Female U.S. Air Force major is found in Kyrgyzstan; reportedly kidnapped and beaten

Saturday, September 9th 2006, 9:40 am
By: News On 6

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) _ A U.S. Air Force officer found alive three days after she went missing near the Kyrgyz capital was abducted by someone who put a purported bomb object in her pocket, a top government official said Saturday.

Maj. Jill Metzger, 33, disappeared Tuesday from a department store in Bishkek while on temporary duty there from her base in Georgia.

Shortly before midnight Friday she knocked on the door of a house in Kant, a town about 22 miles from the capital, and told its residents she had been abducted, Kyrgyz Deputy Interior Minister Omurbek Suvanaliyev said.

Metzger 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 30 miles from the capital, Suvanaliyev told The Associated Press, citing local police in Kant.

She was exhausted and her hair had been dyed, he 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.

Kiyazov, who personally saw and talked to Metzger, told the AP her hair had been dyed dark brown and her hands were stained with dye.

This account differed from one given by Metzger's father-in-law, Kelly Mayo, who told The Associated Press in Colorado Springs 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 U.S. 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 U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan.

The U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan said in a statement that ``it now appears that Major Metzger had been abducted,'' but added that she was now ``safe'' and thanked Kyrgyz officials for their efforts and close cooperation.

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 U.S. 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 U.S.

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