Kidnapped Frenchman released in Afghanistan
French businessman along with two Afghan colleagues who had been abducted, were released unharmed in Afghanistan Thursday…
20 June 2008
AFGHANISTAN - A French businessman who was abducted in southern Afghanistan last month has been released safely along with two Afghan colleagues, the French Foreign Ministry announced Friday.
An Afghan official said the 37-year-old Frenchman was freed after a ransom was handed over but there was no confirmation from French officials about any payment.
"He was freed yesterday (Thursday)," a foreign ministry official said. "He's in good health and is on his way home to France."
The French citizen, who had been living in Afghanistan for years and headed his own construction company, was on his way from Kandahar to Kabul with two colleagues and a driver when they were abducted in the Gailan district of Ghazni province on May 29.
In Kabul, a senior Afghan intelligence officer told AFP that they "were freed today in the morning in neighbouring Wardak province and were handed over to the representatives of the French embassy."
No one has claimed responsibility for his abduction.
But the officer blamed the abduction on Taliban insurgents, who were ousted from power in late 2001 in a US-led invasion and have vowed to kidnap foreign nationals to exchange them for insurgent prisoners.
"Taliban were first demanding the release of their prisoners from Afghan prisons and their demand was not accepted by the Afghan government," he said.
At the request of the French embassy in Kabul, direct negotiations between the families of the kidnap victims and the abductors were allowed via the embassy, the senior intelligence officer said.
"No exchange of prisoners took place and they were released after talks with their families," he said.
He did not give further details or say if their release was won by the payment of a ransom or whether any other privilege was given to the kidnappers. The French diplomatic mission in Kabul refused to comment on the issue.
However, Haji Taj Mohammad Musa, a member of the Ghazni provincial council representing the district where the Frenchman was abducted, said a ransom was paid.
Musa said the Taliban's initial demand was for the release of six Taliban prisoners for the Frenchman, but Afghan authorities refused.
"It was a money deal," Musa said. "He was finally released in exchange for money and they paid money."