German correspondent and two assistants freed

8th November 2008, Comments 0 comments

Intense covert negotiations secure the safe release of a German correspondent and his two assistants.

Berlin -- The Africa correspondent of a leading German newspaper was released on Friday after three days in the hands of a militia group in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Belgian born Thomas Scheen, 43, and his two local assistants were safely in the hands of the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, MONUC, a German government spokesman said.

Scheen was captured by Mai-Mai militiamen in the east of Congo on Tuesday after getting "caught between the fronts," said a spokesman to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).

FAZ publisher, Berthold Kohler, said the journalist and his aides were as well as could be expected given their ordeal.

"We thank all those in the Congo, Germany and Belgium who in the past few days have been involved in intensive efforts to obtain the release of Thomas Scheen and his assistants," Kohler said.

The three men were captured in an area where there was heavy fighting between Mai-Mai militias and forces of Rwanda backed rebel General Laurent Nkunda.

The Mai-Mai had insisted they would only release them if Nkunda withdrew his forces.

Nkunda claims to be fighting for the rights of eastern Congo's Tutsi minority, while the Mai-Mai say they are figthing Tutsi rebels who have crossed over from neighbouring Rwanda.

When asked if money had changed hands a Belgian government spokesman said, "There were obviously political demands, as well as other demands." It still remains unclear if a ransom was paid.


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