Canadian TV reporter abducted in Kabul freed
KABUL, Afghanistan -- A female Canadian TV journalist abducted and held for nearly four weeks in Afghanistan was freed Saturday after Afghan tribal leaders persuaded her kidnappers to release her, officials said.
Mellissa Fung, a reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on her second visit to Afghanistan, was taken hostage Oct. 12 after reporting in a refugee camp in Kabul.
Western news organizations in Afghanistan, including The Associated Press, had been aware of Fung's abduction, but the CBC requested that her case not be publicized for safety considerations while officials tried to negotiate her release.
Fung was freed after tribal elders and provincial council members negotiated her release, said Adam Khan Serat, spokesman for the provincial governor in Wardak. Serat said there was no ransom involved.
It was not immediately clear who kidnapped her, but it seemed likely the Taliban was holding her because they control the region where she was released.
John Cruickshank, publisher of CBC news, said Fung called her parents Saturday to let them know she was safe, healthy and on her way to Kabul. He called Fung's release "great news" and credited the Afghan government with securing her freedom.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper "got directly involved from the first day, just to make it clear how serious this was for the Canadian government," Cruickshank said.
On Saturday, Harper praised the Afghan government for their cooperation.
"This is wonderful news for her family, for her colleagues and for all Canadians," Harper said. "I spoke with President Karzai immediately after this abduction occurred. He promised me the full cooperation and engagement of his government and he delivered."
Harper said he had spoke with Fung by telephone and that no ransom had been paid for her release. He declined to speculate on who might have kidnapped her.
"Obviously it was not a random abduction. Unfortunately, I cannot discuss the circumstances under which the demands were made. In Afghanistan the security risks are very high and are very complex," Harper said.
In a statement, Cruickshank said his organization had asked other news outlets to refrain from publishing news of her abduction based on the advice of security experts.
"I can say however say that it's unlikely that I'd be briefing you today with this delightful news of Mellissa's safe release if it had not been for the cooperation of news organizations around the world," he said.
Fung is the second abducted foreign journalist to be released in two days. On Friday, a Dutch journalist kidnapped just outside of the capital, Kabul, was freed unharmed after nearly a week in captivity.
Joanie de Rijke, 43, was kidnapped Nov. 1 while working on a story for Belgium's P magazine on the deaths of 10 French troops in a Taliban ambush in August.
Michael Lescroart, editorial chief at the magazine's publisher De Vrije Pers, said Friday that the kidnappers had demanded a ransom, but he declined to say if one had been paid.
Security has deteriorated around Afghanistan over the last two years, although violence against Westerners in the capital has been relatively rare until recently.
Kabul has seen a spike in crimes against Westerners in the last several weeks.
A dual South African-British citizen and aid worker was shot and killed by Taliban gunmen in a Kabul neighborhood last month, and a French aid worker was kidnapped at gunpoint in Kabul earlier this week.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)