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French businessman released in Afghanistan

Latest update : 2008-06-20

French businessman Johan Freckhaus, who was kidnapped in Afghanistan last month, was released unharmed along with his two Afghan companions on Thursday, the French foreign ministry announced. Correspondent Claire Billet reports.

A French businessman who was abducted in southern Afghanistan last month has been released safely along with two Afghan colleagues, the French Foreign Ministry announced Friday.

"He was freed yesterday (Thursday)," a foreign ministry official said. "He's in good health and is on his way home to France."

The 37-year French citizen, who had been living in Afghanistan for years and headed his own construction company, was on his way from Kandahar to Kabul with two colleagues and a driver when they were abducted in the Gailan district of Ghazni province on May 29.

No one had claimed his abduction.

In Kabul, a senior Afghan intelligence officer told AFP that they "were freed today in the morning in neighbouring Wardak province and were handed over to the representatives of the French embassy."

The officer blamed the abduction on Taliban insurgents who were ousted from power in late 2001 by a US-led invasion and have vowed to kidnap foreign nationals to exchange for insurgent prisoners.

"Taliban were first demanding the release of their prisoners from Afghan prisons and their demand was not accepted by Afghan government," he said.

He said at the request of the French embassy in Kabul direct negotiations between the families of the kidnap victims and the kidnappers were allowed through the embassy.

"No exchange of prisoners took place and they were released after talks with their families," he said.

He did not give further details or say if their release was won by the payment of a ransom or whether any other privilege was given to the kidnappers.

The French diplomatic mission in Kabul refused to comment on the issue.

Date created : 2008-06-20