Afghanistan

Afghanistan: French aid worker Damfreville released by Taliban

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Kabul_(dpa) _ A French aid worker kidnapped in Afghanistan was handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross in southern Kandahar province on Friday evening, the Red Cross confirmed.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Muhammad Yousif Ahmadi, first claimed the release in a statement posted on the Taliban website.

"The French aid worker was released and was handed over through tribal elders to International Red Cross ... in Maiwand district of Kandahar province," the statement said.

Taliban militants kidnapped two French aid workers with Terre d'Enfance, an agency helping children, in Nimroz province, on April 2 and demanded the French government withdraw its approximately 1,000 troops conducting peacekeeping operations under the NATO command. Three Afghan aid workers were also kidnapped at the same time.

The group had set a May 5 deadline for the French government to withdraw when it released Damfreville's coworker.

Friday's statement said the aid worker was released because French President Nicolas Sarkozy had said that "if he was elected, he would consider the withdrawal of French forces from Afghanistan."

"We believe that (Sarkozy) will fulfil his promises," the statement said.

"We would like to have good relationship with French government and its people. France is a great country in the world, the national interests of both Afghanistan and France should be prioritized in their foreign policy," the statement said, adding, France "should not sacrifice their national interests for the sake of America's stubbornness."

There was no mention of the three Afghan aid workers kidnapped along with the two French nationals.

Last month, the Taliban released Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo in a controversial deal after the Afghan government released five Taliban members.

The militants, however, executed Mastrogiacomo's Afghan translator, Ajmal Naqshbandi, and his driver, Sayed Agha. The deal prompted harsh criticism from both within Afghanistan and in the international community, including the United States and Britain.

The Taliban still hold four other Afghan medical workers and their drivers who were kidnapped earlier in Kandahar province. The release of more militant prisoners have been demanded from the Afghan government in exchange for their safe return. dpa fp pb mga

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