Swiss nationals Daniela Widmer (L), 29, waves and Olivier …
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan/ ZURICH (Reuters) - A Swiss couplekidnapped by the Pakistani Taliban last July have escaped and will return home soon, the Swiss foreign ministry said on Thursday after the two reached a military checkpoint near Pakistan's border with Afghanistan
Olivier David Och, 31, and Daniela Widmer, 29, were kidnapped in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan and had been held by the Taliban in the North Waziristan region.
"A few minutes ago I was able to speak to Daniela and David and yes, they are free. They are in a safe place," Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter told a news conference. "Daniela and David said they managed to escape this morning."
He denied Switzerland had paid to secure the couple's freedom: "Switzerland does not pay ransoms, and Switzerland did not pay a ransom."
Swiss authorities declined to give the full names of the pair who were named by Pakistani media.
Pakistan army spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas told Reuters the pair had reported to a checkpoint and were then questioned in Peshawar.
According to intelligence sources in North Waziristan, the two were found at a military checkpoint on a main road in Miranshah, the region's main town, at about 5:30 a.m. (0030 GMT) and were then sent to the city of Peshawar by helicopter.
The Swiss foreign ministry said in a statement the couple would return to Switzerland as soon as possible.
Pakistan's Taliban had claimed responsibility for kidnapping the couple, who were seized in the Loralai district of Baluchistan on July 1.
The pair pleaded for their lives in two videos released in October. In one video, Och addressed the Pakistani, Swiss and American governments in English, asking them to release Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist imprisoned in the United States, and Taliban fighters in Pakistan's custody.
Kidnapping for ransom is relatively common in Pakistan, and although foreigners are not often targets, militants occasionally take foreigners hostage.
Two Western aid workers were kidnapped by gunmen in the central Pakistani city of Multan on January 19. A British doctor working with the International Committee of the Red Cross was kidnapped in the southwestern city of Quetta on January 5.
Warren Weinstein, an American aid worker, was kidnapped in the central Pakistani city of Lahore in August last year. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for Weinstein's abduction in December.
(Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmad in PESHAWAR, Qasim Nauman in ISLAMABAD, Saud Mehsud in DERA ISMAIL KHAN and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in GENEVA; Writing by Mahawish Rezvi; Editing by Sophie Hares)
And this, related, but conflicting, from AFP and Yahoo News:
Swiss couple Olivier David Och (R) and Daniela Widmer …
The Pakistani Taliban have released two Swiss hostages kidnapped more than eight months ago while travelling through the country's volatile southwest, the army said Thursday.
"They are safe and sound. We shifted them to Peshawar," Pakistani army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP, referring to the northwestern city that abuts Pakistan's lawless tribal belt where they were held captive.
Olivier David Och, 31, and Daniela Widmer, 28, were abducted at gunpoint in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan on July 1.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed the abduction soon after, demanding that they be exchanged for Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuro-scientist sentenced in 2010 in New York for the attempted murder of US government agents in Afghanistan.
In October, a video had emerged showing the couple -- apparently in relatively good health -- flanked by four masked gunmen pointing rifles at their heads.
Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, attracts few tourists due to separatist violence andTaliban activity.