One who got away Â to tell the tale…
Sean Langan was held hostage for three months. A proud Taliban father showed him a Photo of his bomb strapped son blowing up a humvee…
WASHINGTONÂ – For a harrowing three months as aÂ TalibanÂ prisoner in a Pakistani terror camp, journalistÂ Sean LanganÂ lived face to face with sociopaths threatening to behead him as they plotted against the West.
Langan, 44, miraculously walked out of the lawless tribal belt nearÂ AfghanistanÂ in June – an area thick with armed Arab fighters – having absorbed an encyclopedic knowledge of jihadi tactics, resources and intent.
“The world’s leading terrorists are there – safe, and with the time to plot and plan attacks,” Langan told the Daily News in his firstÂ U.S.Â interview.
“If another 9/11 happens, it’ll be by the same perpetrators of the greatest attack in history,” he said. “It’s a race against time.”
The threat posed by the extremists there is not surprising.
What shocked him, however, was the total indifference to human life shown by his captors. Their own children were as expendable as bullets in anÂ AK-47.
The veteran filmmaker, whose daring war documentaries play on theÂ BBCÂ and in theaters, sneaked into Pakistan last spring to interview top TalibanÂ “Khalifa” SirajHaqqani andÂ Al QaedaÂ No. 2Â Ayman al-Zawahiri. He was going to askÂ Osama Bin Laden‘s deputy if they had a nuclear bomb.
But he never got the chance.
Langan was instead taken hostage. A letter on Haqqani’s stationary accused him of spying, which the journalist said typically means “you’re dead.”
Thrown into a tiny blacked-out room with his terrified Afghan translator, they were rattled by the constant chattering of machine guns, mortars and grenades around the house that served as a jail. Overhead, they often heard the steady hum of U.S. Predator drones.
“I was in a valley surrounded by training camps, bases and caves. Arabs were having meetings there – Al Qaeda – making plans,” Langan recalled.
One extremist bluntly explained, “We are meeting and discussing global jihad issues.”
Terror plots since 9/11 inÂ Britain,Â SpainÂ andÂ IndiaÂ have been traced to Pakistan’s tribal areas, the source of most current terror threats, according to theÂ CIAÂ and a federal terror commission.
Langan heard an ex-Pakistani minister on the BBC one day denying Al Qaeda operated camps inside the country.
“I had to turn up the radio to hear his denial over the sound of gunfire from all the training camps,” Langan said, grinning.
During interrogation, they demanded he identify his young sons – an infuriating attempt “to bring innocence and light into a dark, corrupted world,” he said.
Fearing a beheading, he revealed one son’s name is Gabriel, as in the archangel, and one of the holiest names in Islam.
The Taliban wept – and Haqqani sent a letter of apology.
A teary-eyed interrogator threw his arm around Langan and showed him a young boy’s photo on his cell phone.
A father-to-father moment?
Hardly. The next photo showed the bomb-strapped kid blowing up a U.S.Â Humvee.
“I’m looking at him like, you’re a sociopath,” Langan said.
Questioning him about Western decadence, a clueless Taliban asked if “your women can marry animals – even small ones.”
Langan by then had lost two teeth and 40 pounds, but his sense of humor suddenly returned.
“I don’t think that is true, but why do you?” he asked.
The goon had seen a picture of a yellow-haired woman “kissing a frog” in her hand with a crown – the “Frog Prince” of fairy tales.
Langan’s tormentors were intensely curious about Obama, too.
“The Taliban asked me about Barack Obama,” Langan said. “One asked, ‘Is he a Muslim?'”
Just before friends got him freed, Langan was moved to an Al Qaeda safehouse, where he was forced to watch jihadi sniper and beheading videos with a militant’s toddler son.
Surviving the seemingly unsurvivable was “life affirming,” and he realized his sons were more important than any scoop.
“When death comes to your door, it focuses the mind on what’s important,” Langan said.