Kidnapped French aid worker in Afghanistan freed
Details of Dany Egreteau’s release are sketchy but the aid organisation he works for maintains that no ransom has been paid to the Afghan kidnappers.
4 December 2008
KABUL – A French aid worker kidnapped a month ago in the Afghan capital Kabul was released on Wednesday, a week after he was seen pleading for his life in a hostage video, officials said.
Dany Egreteau, who worked for the Solidarite Laique (Secular Solidarity) charity, was safe at the French embassy in Kabul late Wednesday but there were few details on the circumstances of his release.
"Yes, he's free. He has been freed with the efforts of the Afghan security forces," said Afghan interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary. He declined to elaborate.
President Nicolas Sarkozy welcomed the news in Paris and said the aid worker would be flown back home to France late Thursday.
Egreteau had been in Afghanistan only a week, on his first mission to the country, when he was seized by three armed men as he walked through a residential district of Kabul on 3 November. An Afghan who tried to stop the abduction was shot dead.
French authorities last week received a video showing Egreteau with guns pointed at his head and explaining that he was unable to move and forced to wear a blindfold most of the time.
A French foreign ministry spokesman said in Paris that the aid worker "appeared in good health, although he has been shaken" by the ordeal.
Egreteau, who worked in education programmes, had spoken to his parents, said Frederic Desagneaux, the spokesman.
The head of the Solidarite Laique group Egreteau worked for insisted that no ransom had been paid to the kidnappers.
"Dany was freed around 7:00 pm (1430 GMT) after quite long negotiations with his kidnappers. He straight away told me that he wanted to speak with his parents to tell them that he was free," Roland Biache told journalists in Kabul.
"There was no ransom demand and no ransom was paid. The kidnappers realised that we are a group of modest means and that Dany is an aid worker and took account of the fact that his health was deteriorating," he said.
There has been a series of kidnappings in the Afghan capital, mostly by criminal gangs seeking thousands of dollars in ransom, and three expatriates were shot dead in attacks in November.
Canadian journalist Mellissa Fung was freed last month after four weeks in captivity in a prisoner swap arranged by Afghan intelligence for the family of her abductors.
Afghanistan has seen record levels of violence this year as the hardline Islamist Taliban step up their campaign to overthrow the Western-backed Afghan government and regain power.
The Taliban had said however it was not involved in the kidnapping of the Frenchman.
There are hundreds of international aid organisations in Afghanistan trying to help the country recover from three decades of war.
An NGO security watchdog, ANSO, has said attacks against humanitarian groups are at their highest this year since the extremist Taliban regime was toppled in a US-led invasion in late 2001.
[AFP / Expatica]