BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — A U.S. Air Force major who went missing for three days arrived at a U.S. military hospital in Germany on Sunday, and a senior Kyrgyz police official said that her departure “strongly complicates” the probe into her disappearance.
Maj. Jill Metzger vanished Tuesday in Bishkek, the capital of this former Soviet republic, while shopping for souvenirs at a department store before a scheduled departure from the country on Friday.
A massive search involving Kyrgyz and U.S. investigators came up empty until late Friday, when police said Metzger knocked on the door of a house in Kant, about 22 miles from the capital, and said she had been abducted.
The 33-year-old officer was taken out of Kyrgyzstan on Saturday. She arrived Sunday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan for medical exams and debriefing, a statement from U.S. Air Forces Europe headquarters said.
Said to be in ‘stable condition’
The statement, which did not mention Metzger’s condition, said it was unclear how long she would stay, but the debriefing process usually lasts three to six days.
Capt. Anna Carpenter, spokeswoman at the U.S. air base at Bishkek’s civilian airport, said Saturday that Metzger was in “stable condition.” Kyrgyz authorities have said only that she was exhausted.
Carpenter also dismissed concerns that Metzger’s departure would hinder the investigation, saying some of the U.S. investigators were still working actively with Kyrgyz authorities.
“They’re still out there banging on doors and looking at leads,” Carpenter said. Now that Metzger is safe, she said, investigators “can focus on what happened to her and finding those responsible,” as well eliminating a possible threat to others.
Major's absence may hamper inquiry
But Kemilbek Kiyazov, chief of the police department in the region surrounding Bishkek where Metzger was found, said the probe would go more smoothly if she were in Kyrgyzstan to provide more detailed evidence.
“Her absence strongly complicates the investigation,” Kiyazov told The Associated Press.
“She should in detail describe the outward appearance of her abductors, draw a diagram of where they took her,” said Kiyazov, who saw and talked to Metzger after she reappeared.
Carpenter said “taking care of Major Metzger was the first priority” in the decision to remove her from Kyrgyzstan and “she can tell her story from wherever she is.”
Kiyazov said Metzger told police that after she split from others at the department store, someone put a hard object in a back pocket of her jeans along with a note saying it was an explosive. The note also included detailed instructions about where to go and what to do.
Three men and a woman
Metzger said she was then met by three men and a woman who put her into a minibus, took her to a residence and placed her in a dark room, Kiyazov said. He quoted her as saying she managed to escape after an abductor brought her food and she struck him.
Kiyazov said her blondish hair had been dyed dark brown and her hands were stained with dye.
An account from Metzger’s father-in-law differed from that of Kyrgyz police. Kelly Mayo told The Associated Press in Colorado Springs, Colo., late Friday that the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations said she had been found on the side of the road with her head shaven.
Metzger was serving a four-month stint with the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing at Manas, where the U.S. military has maintained a base since 2001 to support operations in nearby Afghanistan. She had been scheduled to return Friday to her regular post at Moody Air Force Base, Ga.
‘I’m fine, I’m OK, I’m OK’
Metzger phoned her parents in Henderson, N.C., early Saturday to let them know she was safe, The News & Observer newspaper of Raleigh reported Sunday. Her parents said the call left questions about her disappearance, and they still did not know why she vanished, where she was during her ordeal or how she got back.
“She kept saying, “I’m fine, I’m OK, I’m OK,” her mother, Jeanette Metzger, told the newspaper.
John Metzger, a retired Air Force colonel, said his daughter seemed to be in shock.
“Her tone of voice at the beginning was kind of distant, I would say, and then all of a sudden, I heard the old Jill come back,” he said.
Metzger was married to Air Force Capt. Joshua Mayo on April 8 and she was deployed 10 days later. The couple had been set to leave Sept. 24 for a delayed honeymoon, her father said.
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