Afghan security forces early Monday morning freed a German woman abducted Saturday, and caught her captors, as well as the mastermind behind the death of two Deutsche Welle journalists, according to news reports.
Christina M. has been working for a German aid organization in Kabul for a year
The woman, identified as 31-year-old Christina M., was abducted Saturday by four armed men as she was leaving a restaurant in western Kabul in the presence of her husband.
A spokeswoman for the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin confirmed the report of the abductee's release.
"She is in the safe custody of the German embassy in Kabul," said the spokeswoman, who declined to comment on the health of Christina M., who is believed to be pregnant.
In Kabul, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, Semarai Baschari, announced that Christina M. was freed in a joint operation by the ministry and the Afghan secret service after one and a half days in captivity, and that four people had been arrested in relation to the abduction case, German news agency DPA reported.
Slain DW journalists' killer caught
DW mourned journalist Karen Fischer
Among them is said to be the person who planned the kidnapping, as well as the mastermind behind the killing of Karen Fischer and Christian Struwe, two journalists from this news organization, who were shot while working in northern Afghanistan last October, according to DPA.
Afghan sources have told Deutsche Welle's Afghanistan radio services that the suspected killers of Fischer and Struwe were arrested a week ago. Baschari said authorities did not know why the murders occurred and added that the investigation continued.
Baschari said it was a coincidence that the announcement of the arrests and hostage's release were both made Monday.
After Christina M. was abducted, Kabul police cordoned off the district where the woman was snatched, conducted house-to-house searches and threw up roadblocks on major roads out of the city to prevent her from being taken out of the capital. One taxi driver was reported slain by mistaken gunfire.
In Berlin, government officials vowed to continue the participation of German Bundeswehr troops in the NATO-led international coalition to stabilize Afghanistan. German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said that there was no alternative but to extend the German military commitment.
Taliban connection denied
In a videotape broadcast earlier Sunday by the private Tolo news channel, a captor of Christina M. wore a turban and hid his face.
Slain DW journalist Christian Struwe (right)
"We have Madam Christina. We are trying hard to keep her safe," he said. "We want for the government of (Afghan President) Hamid Karzai to release our innocent prisoners. ... We don't have any other demand. We are not bad people."
The captor denied being part of the Taliban, the former ruling Islamic militia that was toppled by a US-led coalition in 2001 and has continued a guerrilla war.
A Taliban spokesman had previously denied responsibility for the German woman's abduction.
In the videotape, Christina M. also spoke.
"I am fine. There is no threat toward me," she said, reading from a piece of paper and speaking broken Dari, the main language in Afghanistan. "I want for my country to immediately try to win my release. They should help."
Steinmeier is grateful
Christina M. is a staffer for Ora International, a Christian aid organization that has operated in Afghanistan since 1991.
Steinmeier thanked Afghan authorities
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin extended gratitude to the Afghan authorities with whom his government had worked "closely, faithfully and successfully" to safely gain the German woman's freedom.
Steinmeier emphasized that the German foreign ministry is continuing to seek the release of the German construction engineer abducted last month, identified as Rudolf B. He was kidnapped on July 18 in the central province of Maidan Wardak.
The 62-year-old hostage was able to speak by telephone Sunday with a reporter in Kabul from German broadcaster ARD, reporting that his health was deteriorating. The abductee asked why a ransom had not been paid for his quick release and called for the German embassy in Kabul to act more strongly to gain his freedom.