- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 30, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan — An American was released from an Afghan prison and flown out of the country yesterday after serving more than two years for running a private prison as part of a freelance hunt for terrorists, officials said.

Court documents filed Friday in Washington show that U.S. officials planned to secure Brent Bennett a passport and a ticket out of the country, and an Associated Press reporter saw a man identified as Bennett board a plane for Dubai late yesterday.

It was not clear if Bennett, 29, was free or in the custody of U.S. officials. He was held in a private room at the airport and journalists were prevented from talking to him.

Bennett, former U.S. soldier Jack Keith Idema and Edward Caraballo were arrested in July 2004 and convicted of running a private prison in Kabul after Afghan security forces raided a house and discovered eight Afghan men who said they had been abused.

Idema told The Washington Times by phone from his prison cell Thursday that Bennett had been kidnapped from prison by Afghan soldiers and would not survive the night.

Abdul Qayum, the commander of the Policharki prison where Bennett had been jailed, told the Associated Press the American was in good spirits when he left yesterday.

An Afghan airport official showed an AP reporter a copy of the passport of the man boarding the plane in the name of Brent L. Bennett. The official asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

No U.S. officials in Afghanistan would comment on Bennett’s case, and an American lawyer filing paperwork on his behalf said he didn’t know if Bennett was free or in U.S. custody. When Bennett boarded the plane he was not wearing any restraints.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy declined to comment on the case yesterday.

Caraballo, who has said he is a video journalist, was released in April.

In a separate development, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a busy pedestrian alley next to Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry yesterday, killing at least 12 persons and wounding dozens, officials said.

The blast was the second major suicide attack in Kabul in September, underscoring the rising danger in the once-calm capital as militants step up attacks across the country.

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