Wed, Apr 10, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Two French hostages freed in Afghanistan

AFP, KABUL

Two Frenchmen held hostage separately in Afghanistan have been freed, officials said on Monday, with one man found by local security personnel in a Taliban-troubled area near Kabul.

Pierre Borghi was kidnapped in late November last year and released in Wardak Province outside the capital on Sunday night, Afghan officials said, while the second released man, who has not been named, was taken captive in Kabul on Jan. 27.

Officials in Kabul who declined to be identified said that the two men had been held separately and gave no explanation of why they had been released on the same day.

“Two of our compatriots kidnapped in Afghanistan have been released. We welcome their freedom,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said.

Borghi, 29, worked in Afghanistan from 2011 to last year for French charity Solidarites International and returned to Kabul last year to take photographs and try to establish himself as a photographer.

“Yes, [Borghi] has been released, he was found by our guards in Maidan Shar town last night at around 9pm,” Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF) director Shoib Sharifi said.

The APPF is a government-run security group founded in 2009 to provide protection for international and domestic clients across Afghanistan.

Sharifi said the Frenchman had escaped.

“He was found near one of our check posts in Maidan Shar. Our guards brought him to Kabul,” Sharifi said.

Borghi was taken to the Afghan Ministry of the Interior and later handed over to the French embassy.

Wardak Province is a hotbed of the Taliban-led insurgency, but there has been no claim for the kidnapping. The details of how he was abducted are unknown.

Borghi’s personal Web site said he trained as a sociologist and urban planner and moved into photography after several years working for humanitarian organizations.

The second released man worked for the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), a Paris-based non-governmental organization founded in 1993.

The 30-year-old was taken captive in January in Kabul, when the unmarked ACTED car he was traveling to work in was blocked by another vehicle. Four armed gunmen then dragged him from the car.

“ACTED is very happy about the release of one of its employees in Afghanistan, he is fine,” its spokesman Adrien Tomarchio said, declining to give the man’s name.

There was also no claim of responsibility for his kidnapping.

Westerners have been taken hostage regularly in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion brought down the Taliban regime in late 2001, with victims often kidnapped by criminals and sold on to militants.

Two French journalists were captured while covering the conflict in December 2009 and finally freed in June 2011 after 18 months in captivity.

One of the men, television reporter Herve Ghesquiere, later suggested that an exchange deal involving money and prisoners secured his release from the Taliban.

The French and Afghan governments both denied that a ransom was paid for the release of Ghesquiere and cameraman Stephane Taponier.

The last known foreign hostage incident was at the end of last month, when a German man working for the German government-owned aid group GIZ was freed after being kidnapped for less than 24 hours in northeastern Afghanistan.

The man was taken by suspected Taliban militants in the mountainous Badakhshan Province while out jogging with his dog, police said.

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