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What happened to Paul Overby?

Paul Edwin Overby Jr.

This story was updated on Nov. 14.

Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan said Tuesday they had agreed to free American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks in a prisoner exchange with the Afghan government. The two professors at American University of Afghanistan were captured in Kabul in 2016.

But the fate of another captive in the region remains unknown. Paul E. Overby Jr., a 76-year-old author from Western Massachusetts, was abducted in May 2014 in eastern Khost Province as he sought to interview the head of a notorious Taliban faction, the Haqqani network.

Before Overby disappeared, he suggested that he was planning to cross into Pakistan, according to the FBI.


While the Taliban militants released two videos showing the professors begging for their lives, they have released no images of Overby. The New York Times reported Tuesday that Overby is believed to be dead.

Overby’s wife, Jane Larson, who lives in Goshen, said Thursday in a statement to the Globe that during the last five and a half years, she had not received any definitive information regarding his status or whereabouts.

“I remain eager for information from his captors or the governments of Afghanistan or Pakistan, where he was traveling at the time of his disappearance,” she said.

In a 2017 interview, Larson said her husband had traveled to Afghanistan to write about the country and the continuing war. She told The News International in Islamabad that he had health problems that required medical attention.

Larson said her husband cared deeply about Afghanistan and had studied the Koran. In the late 1980s, he had fought alongside Afghans fighting against invading Soviet forces, she said.

The FBI offered a $1 million reward for information about Overby and King. The State Department did not respond to a question about Overby’s kidnapping.


The expected release of King and Weeks is a major step in the Taliban’s efforts to restart peace talks with the United States. In September, President Trump announced he was canceling negotiations with the Taliban leadership after a US service member was killed in a suicide attack in Kabul.

Insurgent fighters have been battling international and Afghan government forces since they were toppled in 2001 after their government sheltered 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story misspelled Jane Larson’s name. The Globe regrets the error.

Information from wire services, NBC News, and the New Yorker was used in this report. Roy Greene can be reached at Roy.Greene@Globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @roy.greene.