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Captured U.S. soldier's family: 'Keep Bowe in your thoughts'

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: U.S. Defense Secretary Gates: U.S. forces doing everything to find Bergdahl
  • Friend to soldier: "Know that we love you and we are praying"
  • Soldier from Idaho says he's frightened he won't be able to see family again
  • U.S. military: Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, 23, was captured June 30 in Afghanistan
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(CNN) -- A family friend of a U.S. soldier captured by the Taliban said his friends and family want Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl to "stand tall, stand firm."

Bowe Bergdahl, from Ketchum, Idaho, in a photo provided by his family.

Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl in a video made by his captors, members of the Taliban.

"Bowe, if you see this, know that we love you and we are praying fervently for you and prayers are going up for you from all over the world," Tim Baker told CNN affiliate KTVB-TV in the soldier's hometown of Ketchum, Idaho.

"To all of our valiant men and women, know that the American people believe in you, support you and are 100 percent behind you, and we thank God every day that you have our back."

In a video released Sunday, apparently made by his captors, Bergdahl spoke of being "scared I won't be able to go home."

"It breaks our heart," Baker said. "It's like having one of our own kids in this situation." Video Watch friend's comments about Taliban captive »

The Bergdahl family is not speaking with media, but Baker said prayer is helping. "Prayer means that we are extremely powerful because God is not limited by where we are when we pray. He is there with Bowe, and so we know that he is protecting him and is with him, so we don't feel powerless against these people," Baker said. "We feel very empowered."

Bergdahl, 23, was captured June 30 from Paktika province in southeastern Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense.

The Taliban has threatened to kill Bergdahl if foreign troops continue targeting civilians in the name of search operations in Ghazni and Paktika provinces, Taliban commander Mulvi Sangeen said by telephone Friday after being contacted by CNN at an undisclosed location.

NATO-led forces in Afghanistan and the U.S. military have repeatedly denied targeting civilians.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan are doing everything possible to free Bergdahl, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday.

Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a news conference they were disgusted at the video that Bergdahl's captors released.

"My personal reaction was one of disgust at the exploitation of this young soldier," Gates said.

In the 28-minute video, Bergdahl becomes emotional when he speaks of his family -- his parents, siblings, nieces and nephew -- and the girlfriend he hopes to marry.

"I have a very, very good family that I love back home in America, and I miss them every day that I'm gone," he says. "I miss them, and I'm afraid I might never see them again and that I'll never be able to tell them I love them again. I'll never be able to hug them.

"I'm scared I won't be able to go home. It is very unnerving to be a prisoner," he said. However, his captors are treating him "like a guest," he said.

Asked by his captors if he had any message for Americans, the soldier said, "To my fellow Americans who have loved ones over here, who know what it's like to miss them, you have the power to make our government bring them home. Please, please bring us home so we can be back where we belong and not over here."

It was not clear whether some or all of Bergdahl's remarks were scripted by his captors. Video Watch excerpt from the video »

The last few minutes of the video show him eating a meal.

The Bergdahl family expressed how they are feeling to Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling. "We've been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and concern towards Bowe and our family. As you know, the situation is extremely difficult for everyone involved. We'd like to remind all of you our sole focus is seeing our beloved son Bowe safely home.

"Please continue to keep Bowe in your thoughts and prayers, and we ask for your continued acceptance of our need for privacy in this difficult situation. Thank you."

A reporter asked Femling if the military has restricted anything he has said and he answered that it has not.

The Taliban earlier claimed responsibility for Bergdahl's kidnapping, the military said. Last week, the U.S. military distributed pamphlets in eastern Afghanistan in an effort to locate him.

"As you can see, the American soldier is in good shape and good health, and he is being treated well based on the guidelines of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan regarding war prisoners," said a statement on Islamist Web sites accompanying the video. "Any decision regarding the American soldier will be the specialty of the high order of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, may God protect him."

The U.S. military said it believed Bergdahl may have been moved to various locations. In the video, Bergdahl's captor makes reference to his being moved from Paktika to Khandahar, saying the move was accomplished "very easily." The claim could not be independently verified. Asked the date by his captor, Bergdahl says it is July 14.

Two versions of the pamphlets were distributed in Afghanistan, written in the Pashto language. They were made available to CNN by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

One shows the image of an American soldier shaking hands with a group of kids with the message, "One of our American guests is missing. Return the guest to his home. Call us at" -- and lists a phone number.

The other shows a U.S. soldier kicking down a door, and then an outstretched hand with the superimposed image of a soldier, his head and arms drooping, and the words, "If you do not release the U.S. soldier then ... you will be hunted."

The goal of the pamphlets was to balance the effort to get Bergdahl back with how U.S. forces interact with the local population, Gates and Mullen said Monday. Mullen said the message of the second pamphlet was "not threatening, but to express that we will do what we have to do to find this individual."

Days after Bergdahl went missing, a senior U.S. military official said Bergdahl was captured by low-level militants and then quickly "sold" to the clan and network led by warlord Siraj Haqqani, who is believed to be deeply involved in the action.

The Haqqani clan operates on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border and is well known to the U.S. military.

Bergdahl apparently left his small outpost on his own on June 30 with no apparent means of defending himself, the official said. Taliban commander Mulvi Sangeen said he visited a military post in the Yousaf Khel district in the Paktika province, got drunk and was ambushed while returning to his car.

Sangeen said the soldier was taken to a safe place. CNN could not independently verify Sangeen's claims.

A source with the U.S. military denied the claim that Bergdahl was drunk. "The Taliban are known for lying and what they are claiming [is] not true," the source said.

In the video, Bergdahl says he was captured as he was lagging behind a patrol.


Bergdahl is not a National Guardsman, according to the Idaho National Guard statement, but the organization said it was coordinating with the Department of Defense to provide public affairs duties and other assistance to the Bergdahl family. The family has requested privacy, the statement said.

On Monday, four U.S. troops with the International Security Assistance Force were killed in eastern Afghanistan, according to a senior U.S. official there. The deaths would raise the total of U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan to 30 in July, the highest monthly toll since the war began in October 2001. According to the security force, the four were killed in a roadside bombing.

CNN's Barbara Starr and journalist Janullah Hashimzada contributed to this report.

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