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Wife says U.S. man kidnapped by Afghans in 2014

WASHINGTON >> The wife of a 74-year-old Massachusetts man revealed for the first time that her husband had been abducted in Afghanistan more than two years ago while trying to interview the head of the Haqqani militant network, a Taliban faction.

In an interview published Thursday with The News International in Islamabad, Jane Larson, the wife of Paul Overby, said that he disappeared in May 2014 as he tried to cross into Pakistan from Khost in eastern Afghanistan.

Larson also provided a statement to The New York Times but declined an interview.

“I appeal for mercy on behalf of my dear husband, Paul Overby, to those holding him,” she said. “I believe he is being held hostage by the Haqqani network, yet I have received no messages from him or his captors.”

Before his abduction, Overby had spent a month in Kabul, Afghanistan, and another month in Khost.

Larson said she had spoken to Overby on May 16, 2014, just days before his disappearance and his attempt to speak with Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani group and a powerful warlord.

Overby had traveled to Afghanistan, his eighth time, to write about the country and the continuing war.

He had previously written a book, “Holy Blood,” about the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Larson said her husband cared deeply about Afghanistan and had studied the Quran.

In 1988, Larson said, Overby fought alongside the Afghans, or holy warriors known as mujahedeen, before the Soviet Army’s withdrawal from the country.

Larson said he has health problems and probably needs medical attention.

“I can only hope that those holding Paul have treated him as a guest, a white beard and a friend of the mujahedeen, for it is in this spirit that he took this trip, and this is how the mujahedeen have always received him,” she said.

U.S. officials said they had no indication where Overby, of Goshen, Massachusetts, is being held.

If alive, Overby is not the only American believed to be held hostage by the Haqqanis.

Officials said the Haqqanis are also holding Kevin King, 60, a Pennsylvania professor who was abducted in Kabul last year.

And last month, the Haqqanis released a video showing an American woman named Caitlin Coleman, 31, her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, 36, and their two children who were born in captivity.

During the video, Coleman and her husband appealed to President Barack Obama to win their release.

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