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Timeline of a captivity: French journalists held in Afghanistan

French journalists Stephane Taponier and Herve Ghesquiere have been held hostage in Afghanistan since Dec. 2009, a long traumatic period that has seen official strategy shifts and a debate on whether to publicize their plight.

Dec. 29, 2009: French journalists Stephane Taponier and Herve Ghesquiere, along with their Afghan translator, fixer and driver, Mohammed Reza, Ghulam and Sattar, are kidnapped in Afghanistan’s Kapisa province. According to some French news reports, they were kidnapped as they arrived at the village of Umar Khel, between Sarobi and Tagab, northeast of the Afghan capital of Kabul.

Dec. 2009 – March 2010:  Media coverage of kidnapping is muted – due to security concerns. News organisations refrain from broadcasting the full names of the journalists. Official French response is initially testy. French President Nicolas Sarkozy publicly grumbles about the risk to French soldiers’ lives by running operations to try to rescue kidnapped reporters in their “impudent” quest for “scoops”. A senior French military official, Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, deplores the prohibitive cost of such rescue operations, putting the figure at 10 million euros.
April 8, 2010: Video of the two journalists appeared on a jihadist site. The two men appear to be in good health. The tape features a bearded Ghesquiere reading a statement in English calling for the release of Taliban prisoners. “As long as the Taliban demands are not met, we will be executed,” he says. The video also includes footage of a gaunt-looking Taponier sitting cross legged on a maroon carpet and balancing a sheet of paper on his lap.

April 12, 2010: France Television publicly discloses the full names and identities of the two journalists.

April 16, 2010:  Sarkozy meets with France Television President Patrick de Carolis. Experts say the meeting marks a dramatic change in tone of the official French response to hostage crisis. Following the meeting, media organisations start reporting the men’s full names and many public news organisations, such as FRANCE 24, start featuring a count on the number of days in captivity.

June 22, 2010: French Defense Minister Hervé Morin and France Television President Patrick de Carolis visit Afghanistan. Carolis says negotiations were intensifying.

July 2010: According to the French daily, Le Parisien, members of the French security service, the DGSE, have a phone conversation with the hostages - first with Taponier and a few days later with Ghesquiere.
August 2010: French Chief of Staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud confirms that French officials have been able to reach the two men by phone and that they have other evidence the two men are alive. He expresses a hope that the two men will be released before Christmas. Sarkozy however later backs down from providing a deadline for their release.

Oct. 25, 2010: A star-studded free concert is held in Paris to commemorate 300 days of Taponier and Ghesquiere’s captivity and to raise public awareness about their plight.
Dec. 20, 2010: A new video of the two journalists addressing their families is received by French authorities. Officials authenticate the tape and say it was probably recorded in November 2010.


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