Two French journalists kidnapped and held in Afghanistan for 18 months returned home Thursday, after months of start-stop negotiations.
A plane carrying cameraman Stephane Taponier and reporter Herve Ghesquiere of state television France 3 landed at the Villacoublay military airport southwest of Paris on Thursday morning. They were greeted with emotional embraces by family members and shook hands with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.
The two men and their Afghan interpreter, Reza Din, were captured at gunpoint on December 30, 2009 in Kapisa province, northeast of the Afghan capital, Kabul. They were reporting on the reconstruction of a road in the area, a volatile and remote terrain swarming with Taliban militants.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and accused the journalists of spying.
Their release, and that of their interpreter, was announced on Wednesday by the French presidential office. They were the longest held Western journalists in Afghanistan and the longest held French journalists since the Lebanese hostage crisis in the 1980s.
"The wind of freedom that has blown - that is blowing - on the Arab world also needs to be taken into account by the hostage takers, who need to realize that this is not the right way to meet their objectives," Prime Minister Francois Fillon told parliament after the announcement.
It was not immediately clear why the kidnappers decided to release their hostages now. Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France maintains its policy of not paying ransoms for hostages.
Author: Andrew Bowen (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Martin Kuebler