By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, September 10, 2006
MOSCOW, Sept. 9 -- A U.S. Air Force major who disappeared while on an off-base trip in Kyrgyzstan, where she was stationed, surfaced late Friday and reported that she had been abducted, U.S. and Kyrgyz officials said Saturday.
Maj. Jill Metzger, 33, walked out of a department store in the capital, Bishkek, on Tuesday and vanished, setting off a nationwide search in which more than 20 U.S. agents participated.
Late Friday evening, Metzger showed up at a house in the town of Kant, about 20 miles from the capital. Accounts about what had happened to her were fragmentary, and the U.S. Embassy said in a statement that "it now appears that Major Metzger had been abducted."
Metzger was stationed at a U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia, that is used to support operations in Afghanistan. Air Force officials said she was in stable condition and had been flown to another base in the region.
"Her condition will be determined by a team of medical professionals," the military said in a statement. "The investigation concerning her disappearance is continuing."
A Kyrgyz police official, Kemilbek Kiyazov, told the Associated Press that Metzger had given a dramatic account of being kidnapped.
According to Kiyazov, Metzger said that while she was shopping at a department store in Bishkek, someone placed an object in her back pocket with a note saying it was a bomb and telling her to go to an address in Bishkek.
Metzger went to the address "as if she were in a trance," Kiyazov said. Three men and a woman then forced her into a van and took her to a house in a rural area outside the capital.
Other Kyrgyz officials, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, said they found her story baffling.
Metzger was on a shopping trip with other U.S. personnel who reported her missing after she failed to meet up with them for the return trip to the base. She reportedly does not speak any of the major local languages, Kyrgyz, Russian or Uzbek. And investigators said they determined that she appeared to have left the store of her own volition.
Metzger, who is permanently assigned to Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, had nearly completed a four-month tour in Kyrgyzstan and was scheduled to ship out Friday. Military officials said she had recently married and was planning to join her husband on a belated honeymoon.
On Friday night, Kyrgyz officials said, she turned up in Kant exhausted and with her hair dyed brown. Kiyazov told the AP that Metzger's hands were stained with dye. It was unclear how Metzger eluded her kidnappers.
Metzger's father-in-law, Kelly Mayo, told the AP in Colorado Springs that the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations said she was found on the side of a road with her head shaved. He suggested that she may have suffered some physical injuries. U.S. officials have not provided any details on what Metzger has said to them.