French journalists held hostage by Taliban return home

Posted by on Jun 30, 2011 | Comments Off on French journalists held hostage by Taliban return home

Two French journalists held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan for 18 months have arrived in France, flying into an airport near Paris.

Cameraman Stephane Taponier and reporter Herve Ghesquiere were freed in circumstances that remain unclear.

The pair were kidnapped with Afghan colleagues near Kabul in December 2009 while on assignment for French TV.

Mr Ghesquiere said they were both in good health. “We were never threatened with death, never beaten,” he said.

The two Frenchmen, who were working for French state television network France-3, had become some of the longest-held Western hostages in Afghanistan.

“There are lots of hostages in the world, I feel for those who are held hostage, and those who died in operations when they tried to save them,” the forty-seven-year-old added.

“Until you have been a hostage, you can’t understand but I really feel for them because it is over for us but still going for them.”

‘No regrets’

The pair, who had been embedded with French troops in Afghanistan, decided to gather material from an area known locally as “the Black Hole”, according to the BBC’s Christian Fraser in Paris.

In April 2010, after posting a video of the hostages on the internet, the Taliban said they had submitted a list of prisoners to French authorities that they wanted freed in exchange for the two journalists.

Mr Taponier, 46, and Mr Ghesquiere and one of the three Afghan colleagues with whom they were seized, interpreter Reza Din, were released on Wednesday. French officials have said that no ransom was paid for the men.

The other two Afghan translators had been released some time ago, French officials said.

After stepping on to the tarmac, the two embraced waiting relatives and shook hands with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife.

Mr Ghesquiere, who was held in solitary confinement for the last eight months, said he did not regret his decision to work in Afghanistan.

“It’s what I always wanted to do. I don’t want to go back to Afghanistan tomorrow but […] I want to do this job now more than ever.”

 

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