Taliban says captured British military dog is healthy

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A British special forces dog captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan two months ago is in good health and being fed a diet of kebabs, his captors say.

The fate of the dog became the subject of widespread speculation after the Taliban posted an Internet video this week showing a chocolate-colored Belgian malinois, wearing a military-style black vest, surrounded by bearded militants in an undisclosed area of Afghanistan.

The Taliban claimed in a statement that the dog was seized in a firefight with international soldiers in eastern Laghman province on Dec. 23. The insurgent group said the dog belonged to U.S. forces and carried the rank of colonel.


In the video, one fighter is heard saying, “Allah give victory to the mujahedin, down with them, down with their spies.” The video was first identified Wednesday by the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadist websites.

But British media reported that the dog belonged to British special forces. Like the U.S. military, British forces use the Belgian malinois breed on the battlefield because of its agility and relatively light weight, often deploying the dogs to sniff for explosives.

A Belgian malinois named Cairo became a minor celebrity in 2011 when U.S. officials disclosed that it had been part of the Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden in a covert raid in Pakistan.

Lt. Col. Laurie Arellano, a spokeswoman for the U.S.-led coalition known as the International Security Assistance Force, said, “We can confirm that a military working dog went missing following an ISAF mission in December 2013.” Arellano declined to specify the dog’s nationality.

Coalition officials could not name another case of a canine taken prisoner during the 13-year war in Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has chafed at international troops’ use of the dogs because Afghans, like many Muslims, regard the animal as unclean.

The Taliban statement said the dog was captured during a battle in Alingaar district in Laghman province, in eastern Afghanistan. Ambushed by coalition forces, the Taliban fought back and seized three American rifles, a pistol and the dog, the statement said.

The Taliban said the dog carried the rank of colonel -- canines are commonly given ranks in the military -- “and was outfitted with various electronic devices.”

Speaking to the Telegraph, a British newspaper, a Taliban spokesman said Friday that the dog was being fed chicken and beef kebabs.

Twitter: @SBengali

Times staff writer Bengali reported from Mumbai, India, and special correspondent Baktash from Kabul, Afghanistan.