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Hostage kept blade for suicide

THE Chinese communications engineer who was released after more than 160 days of captivity by the Taliban said he kept a razor blade in one of the sleeves so he could commit suicide prior to any execution attempt by the militants.

During his long captivity, Long Xiaowei, 28, said he was not optimistic about his prospects for release, the Oriental Morning Post reported yesterday.

Long was treated to home cooking, including noodles and meat, at the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan on Sunday. While in Taliban custody, Long was served "coarse" meals including corn and wasn't allowed to change clothes or bathe during his imprisonment.

Long, an employee of an information technology company in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, was working on a project in Pakistan when he was kidnapped in August along with fellow engineer Zhang Guo.

They escaped from the house where they were being held in mid-October while the guards were distracted. Zhang was able to get away and eventually return to China. But Long fell from a roof, injured his ankle and was recaptured.

Long said the militants beat him heavily as punishment and confined him to a 15-square-meter room. But they never hit him again after that because he caused them no further trouble.

The Taliban even dug a tunnel linking the toilet and his cell to prevent his death from an air strike and to keep him from escaping. The tunnel collapsed early on Saturday due to heavy snow, and his guards thought he was dead.

"The tunnel collapsed; the Chinese must be dead," Long said he heard the militants yelling outside his door. They reacted with amazement when they opened the door and found Long unscathed.

He was given a new set of clothes when he was released at about 7am on Saturday and sent on a ride of more than 10 hours into the mountains before he was handed over to Pakistan police. There was no word yesterday on what, if any, conditions were met before Long's release.


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