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Australian academic says US Navy SEALs tried six times to rescue him

“I struggle to find words to express just how completely this has changed me,” he said on Sunday.

“At times, I felt as if my death was imminent, and that I would never return to see those that I loved again. But, by the will of God, I am here, I am alive and I am safe, and I am free.”

Mr Weeks with his sisters Alyssa Carter (left) and Joanne Carter in Sydney on Sunday .

Mr Weeks with his sisters Alyssa Carter (left) and Joanne Carter in Sydney on Sunday .Credit:AAP

He conveyed his personal thanks to those involved in his rescue, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison and US President Donald Trump, after United States officials negotiated a prisoner exchange deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Mr Weeks said that on April 9 this year the pair were woken about 2am and were taken down into the tunnels of the compound where he was being held.

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“And we were told by our guards that it was Daesh [Islamic State]. And I’ve since learnt that I believe now that it was the navy SEALs coming in to get us,” he said.

“And the moment that we got into the tunnels, we were just one or two metres underground. There was a huge bang at the front door, and that was whomever coming in. We thought it was Daesh at the time. And our guards went up and there was a lot of machinegun fire.

“They pushed me over the top into the tunnels and I fell down backwards and rolled and knocked myself out unconscious. So at that point, I was fairly fearful. But I think the fear often comes later than at the time, because this wonderful thing of shock that our body has.”

Mr Weeks said he now believes it was navy SEALs “right outside our door” and during the six rescue attempts they had “missed us only by hours”.

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“Then, after almost 1200 days, our ordeal ended as abruptly as it had begun, and a Black Hawk helicopter lifted me from the parched soils of Afghanistan,” he said.

He thanked Taliban leaders and guards, who he said were soldiers simply obeying their commands.

“They were there because they were ordered to come and look after me,” Mr Weeks said.

“I don’t hate them at all. And some of them, I have great respect for, and great love for, almost.”

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He said he was treated “as well as could be expected” but had no access to medical treatment and limited food.

“And I think, also, because we were in such tiny cells, there were no windows, there were… you know, at times, we spent long periods in the dark. That was quite difficult.”

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