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Three UN Hostages Released
Three United Nations election workers who were kidnapped nearly four weeks ago were released unharmed on November 23, according to Ali Ahmad Jalali, the Afghan interior minister.
Annetta Flanigan from Northern Ireland, Shqipe Habibi from Kosovo and Angelito Nayan, a diplomat from the Philippines were abducted from their UN vehicle in Kabul on October 28.
Jaish-ul-Muslimeen, a faction associated with the Taleban, claimed credit for the kidnapping.
Jalali announced that the three had been released through the efforts of Afghan police, national security forces and the International Security Assistance Force.
He would provide no details of the manner of their release, nor the exact place where the three were left. They were picked up and then taken to a military hospital.
A high official source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Pajhwok news agency that the hostages had gained their freedom through negotiations with the kidnappers. Sums of money were discussed during the talks, though it is unclear whether anything has been, or will be, paid.
But Jalali insisted, “No prisoners were released, no money was paid, no commitment was made to the hostage-takers. To my knowledge, no other parties paid money.”
Manoel de Almeida e Silva, the UN spokesman in Afghanistan, said, “Staff in UN offices are in jubilation.” After visiting the three later, he said, “They are in good spirits.”
They had received medical examinations and seemed “fine”, he said.
In Manila, Philippines presidential spokesman Silvestre Afable said that no ransom had been paid. He added that he was unaware whether the Afghan government had met a key demand of the kidnappers, to release several prisoners in exchange for the hostages.
But a spokesman for Jaish-ul-Muslimeen was quoted by news agencies as saying that the government had obtained the release of 24 Taleban prisoners in exchange for the hostages.
President Hamed Karzai, who won last month’s election on which the three hostages had been working, praised the release of the three, saying, “The values of hospitality and decency triumphed over violence and criminality”.
United States ambassador Zalmai Khalilzad called the releases a “major defeat to terrorists who wanted to export an Iraq style of hostage-taking in Afghanistan”.
Pajhwok Afghan news agency is an IWPR project in Kabul. (http://www.pajhwak.com)
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