BAGHDAD, April 14 (AFP) – A French TV journalist who was kidnapped in Iraq last weekend was freed on Wednesday, as President Jacques Chirac expressed his “deep concern” over the worsening situation in the country.
Alexandre Jordanov, 40, was one of a number of foreign nationals seized over the past week by insurgents apparently campaigning to destabilise the one-year-old US-led occupation of Iraq
“Mr. Jordanov is free,” French charge d’affaires Franck Gellet said in remarks later confirmed by the foreign ministry in Paris.
Jordanov was abducted on Sunday about 50 kilometres (30 miles south of Baghdad) along with his cameraman, Ivan Cerieix, who was later released, according to his employer, the Paris-based CAPA television agency.
Gellet met Jordanov at the Baghdad headquarters of the Committee of Muslim Scholars headed by Sheikh Hareth al-Dari, which has been involved in mediating the release of some of the foreign hostages.
“He was released at the start of the afternoon, but Sheikh Dari did not specify the circumstances of his release. He is in good health,” Gellet said.
France had demanded the “immediate and unconditional release” of the journalist, reiterating an official recommendation that all of its citizens leave Iraq, wracked by a deadly uprising against US-led coalition forces.
Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said France, which opposed the US invasion of Iraq last year and has no forces there, had received no claim of responsibility for the abduction of Jordanov.
There are fewer than 100 French nationals in the country, mainly aid workers, journalists, some employees involved in reconstruction projects and diplomats, according to the foreign ministry.
Chirac “reiterated his deep concern at the way the situation is going, and strongly condemned any and all hostage-taking,” the French president’s spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna, said.
Jordanov and Cerieix had been filming a documentary programme for French pay-TV channel Canal Plus when they witnessed an attack on a logistical convoy north of Baghdad.
They started to film the clashes between US troops and a group of Iraqi fighters, but were separated as they sought cover from the shooting.Cerieix was seized and later released by a Sunni Muslim armed group, CAPA and Canal Plus said in a joint statement.
The presenter of the television show Jordanov was working for, Karl Zero, told Le Parisien newspaper that he had seen images of the journalist as the US military convoy came under attack.
“He had taken off his white shirt and waved it about, shouting: ‘No shoot, no shoot’,” Zero said.
The US-led coalition said on Tuesday that an estimated 40 foreigners from the United States and 11 other countries in Europe and Asia are believed to have been kidnapped by insurgents.
The Paris-based media lobby group Reporters Sans Frontiers issued a statement calling for the “rapid and unconditional liberation of all abducted civilians in the country”.
It added that the kidnappings and the deaths of four reporters and four assistants this year has made Iraq “one of the most dangerous places on the planet for journalists”.
Subject: French news