Kidnapped French worker released in Afghanistan

June 20th, 2008 - 1:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Kabul, June 20 (DPA) A French man abducted along with his two Afghan colleagues in southern Afghanistan was released after three weeks in captivity, sources said Friday. A group of suspected Taliban militants abducted the French national, who owned a private construction company in Afghanistan, on the Kabul-Kandahar highway in Gilan district of southern Ghazni province May 29.

Mullah Farouq, a purported Taliban spokesman in the area, had claimed responsibility for the abduction, but no Afghan government officials or French embassy sources in Kabul confirmed the incident.

The unnamed French man and his two Afghan colleagues, Engineer Mohammad Gul, and their Afghan driver, Baryali “were released in the area Thursday evening”, a foreign diplomatic source, who did not want to be named, told DPA.

“They have arrived in Kabul and they are safe,” he said.

The diplomat did not say how the hostages were released, but Taj Mohammad Musa, a member of provincial council in Ghazni who was mediating between the government and kidnappers early on, said “the two sides were very close on some ransom deal” but could not confirm the release.

“At the beginning, the Taliban were demanding the release of their jailed friends, but the government did not accept it,” Musa said, adding: “Then they were asking for money, for millions of dollars.”

Afghanistan witnessed a series of kidnappings last year including the abduction of 23 South Korean church volunteers, who were abducted by Taliban in July in the same Ghazni province.

The Taliban insurgents freed the hostages after a month, but not before killing two of them in a bid to force the Afghan and Seoul governments to strike a deal with them.

Two German workers along with their five Afghan colleagues were also abducted in Maidan Wardak province in July last year by a group of criminals with close ties with Taliban insurgents.

Kidnapped engineer Rudolf Blechschmidt was released after two months of captivity, but the other German man was killed.

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