Skip to main content
updated

Facebook photo of Colin Rutherford, 26, Toronto resident.

Three months after a 27-year-old Canadian traveller disappeared in Afghanistan, the Taliban say they have captured the man and have accused him of being a foreign spy.

After the Taliban released the man's name Sunday, a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa confirmed that "Colin Rutherford, a Canadian citizen, is missing in Afghanistan after travelling to the country as a tourist."

"He was seeking to learn Pashto during his travels," a Foreign Affairs spokesman said without providing further details.

In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that Mr. Rutherford had admitted to "clandestine activities" to learn the whereabouts of Afghan mujahedeen.

The statement also claimed that incriminating documents had been found on Mr. Rutherford.

Mr. Rutherford was captured in the central-eastern Afghan city of Ghazni, the statement also said. It wasn't clear why the Taliban made the announcement Sunday. The Taliban also called Afghan journalists in Kandahar to trumpet the news.

In one online posting, Mr. Rutherford had said he would be in Kabul from Oct. 23 to Nov. 6.

Mr. Rutherford is of mixed Chinese-Scottish ancestry and has two siblings. His father, with whom he travelled through Italy, Greece, Croatia and Bulgaria in 2008, died two years ago. His mother lives in Toronto.

He described himself on one Facebook posting as being "an average Eurasian."

He grew up in Singapore and had also lived in Hong Kong and Kuwait. A friendly but introverted man, he had an interest for foreign affairs and was undecided about his career path, said one female friend.

"He was unsure. I felt like he was just trying to explore. He liked to travel a lot," she said.

On various social-media sites, Mr. Rutherford described himself as having journeyed in recent years to Pakistan and Afghanistan after studying math and physics and graduating in 2009.

While in Pakistan for three weeks in the fall of 2009, he befriended aid workers for the humanitarian agency Comprehensive Disaster Relief Services, Mr. Rutherford told friends.

He stayed at a guesthouse in Islamabad, visited Lahore and told friends he had been invited to Kashmir by CDRS staffers to witness the lingering impact of the 2005 earthquake.

He described himself as a "shy person with limited knowledge of Urdu."

His most memorable experience, he said, was "having tea at a roadside stop between Islamabad and Attock fort, a hilltop fort in northwest Pakistan. I've never had tea in Canada like that before - very tasty, and interesting sitting arrangements. You can recline and eat if you wanted to."

With files from Daniel Leblanc in Ottawa