After One Day in Captivity: German Hostage Freed in Afghanistan
A German aid worker has been freed in Afghanistan shortly after she was kidnapped, in a police raid involving over 300 officers. Meanwhile another German hostage still being held has demanded to know why Germany has not paid a ransom to secure his release.
A video of the kidnapped German aid worker was broadcast on Sunday on a private Afghan TV station.
The 31-year-old woman, identified as Christina Meier, was freed by Afghan security forces in the early hours of Monday morning after just over a day in captivity. Afghanistan Interior Ministry spokesman Zemary Bashari said Monday that four of Meier's kidnappers had been arrested during the rescue operation, which took place at 12:30 a.m. local time on Monday morning and involved more than 300 police. The four men, who include the kidnappers' ringleader, are now being interrogated, Bashari said.
"Above all, I have to thank the Afghan security personnel without whom this release would not have been possible," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said to a group of reporters today. "I also want to thank the Norwegian security presence in Kabul with whom we were in close contact and who also helped in the release of the hostage."
Meier was abducted from a fast food restaurant in the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday. She was with her husband, who was not taken. Police accidentally shot and killed a taxi driver while pursuing the kidnappers, who escaped with Meier in a car.
Meier, who is in Afghanistan working for the German Christian aid organization Ora International, was reported to be in good health Monday. She is recovering in the German Embassy in Kabul, together with her husband. There are reports she is five months pregnant.
The kidnappers had issued a video showing Meier on Sunday, which was broadcast on the private Afghan television station Tolo TV. In the video the kidnappers called for the release of "innocent prisoners," without specifying which captives were meant. However security forces said the kidnappers were a criminal gang who wanted a $1 million ransom for the woman, rather than a political group.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier Monday thanked the "Norwegian security presence" in Kabul for their help in securing the hostage's release, without going into further detail.
Meanwhile a second German hostage, 62-year-old Rudolf Blechschmidt who was kidnapped about a month ago, is still being held. Kabul-based reporters from the German broadcaster ARD said Sunday they had spoken to him by telephone. In the telephone call, he said that his already poor health had further deteriorated and asked why no ransom had been paid for him. Rüdiger Diedrich, another engineer who was kidnapped together with Blechschmidt, was shot and killed by the kidnappers.
There are fears that Germans working in Afghanistan are being targeted by kidnappers because of the German government's alleged willingness to pay ransoms -- a policy which is controversial and which the government is said to be reconsidering.
Interior ministry spokesman Bashari also said Monday that there had been a breakthrough in another case. Afghan authorites have arrested a suspect in the case of the murder last October of Karen Fischer and Christian Struwe, two freelance journalists who were working for the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. The suspect was arrested last week in the northern province of Baghlan, where the murders took place, the spokesman said.
Meanwhile SPIEGEL reported in its Monday edition that Germany's external intelligence agency, the BND, had held secret talks in Zurich in July 2005 with representatives of the militant Islamist organization the Taliban. According to SPIEGEL, the aim of the talks was to find out if the Taliban was ready to disassociate itself from its ally al-Qaida.
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