French Journalists Kidnapped in Afghanistan Return Home

Posted June 30th, 2011 at 8:45 am (UTC-5)
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Two French journalists held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan for 18 months have returned to France after being freed by their captors.

France-3 television videographer Stephane Taponier and reporter Herve Ghesquiere were greeted by relatives and French President Nicolas Sarkozy when they arrived Thursday at a military airport near Paris.

Looking healthy and jubilant, the two said they were doing well despite being confined indoors nearly 24 hours a day. They told reporters they were not beaten or mistreated by their captors, but suffered difficult living conditions.

The journalists and their Afghan translator, Reza Din, were released on Wednesday. They were abducted in December 2009 while working on a story about reconstruction east of Kabul. Two Afghan journalists who were kidnapped along with them were freed earlier.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

There was no immediate word on why the kidnappers decided to free their hostages after holding them for 547 days. French officials said the government did not pay a ransom for them.

Ghesquiere said Thursday that he and Taponier were held separately in isolation for the majority of their captivity.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy praised Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday for his handling of the situation and thanked others involved in securing the hostages' freedom.

The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed the release. The New York-based group said Wednesday the journalists' ordeal is “a harsh reminder that reporting in Afghanistan continues to pose a challenge to reporters working in the country.”

France has some 4,000 troops fighting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. Last week, President Sarkozy announced his country will pull hundreds of its forces from Afghanistan by the end of the year.