- Title: VARIOUS: THREE UNITED NATIONS HOSTAGES ARE FREED UNHARMED IN AFGHANISTAN
- Date: 23rd November 2004
- Summary: (EUROPE) KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (NOVEMBER 23, 2004) (REUTERS) SLV PHILIPPINE OFFICIALS ARRIVING IN PLACE WHERE RELEASED HOSTAGES ARE STAYING (0.08) VARIOUS OF PHILIPPINE FOREIGN UNDERSECRETARY JOSE BRILLANTES HUGGING RELEASED HOSTAGE FILIPINO DIPLOMAT ANGELITO NAYAN (0.21) VARIOUS OF NAYAN HUGGING FILIPINO OFFICIALS/ NAYAN SAYING "Can I go and change?"(0.28) SLV NAYAN AND OFFICIALS POSING (0.37) VARIOUS OF PHILIPPINE OFFICIALS SHAKING HANDS WITH RELEASED HOSTAGE SHQIPE HEBIBI (IN RED SCARF) AND ANNETTA FLANIGAN (IN BROWN SHAWL)/ UNITED NATIONS SPOKESMAN MANOEL DE ALMEIDA E SILVA HUGGING HEBIBI (0.56) WIDE OF NEWS CONFERENCE BY BRILLANTES (1.00) WIDE OF JOURNALISTS (1.03) SCU (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRILLANTES TALKING ABOUT MEETING WITH NAYAN: "At about 3.30pm this afternoon, Kabul time, we had the opportunity to finally meet Lito Nayan. We did meet him in the flesh and we had the opportunity to talk to him. It allowed him I guess to talk to us on whatever topic he wanted to talk to us about.We did not press him for anything. We did not ask him too many questions. He was in good spirits, he appeared to be in good health." (1.51) SLV JOURNALISTS (1.56) SCU (SOUNDBITE) English) BRILLANTES: "He expressed a desire to want to go home as early as possible." (2.02) CLOSE OF REPORTER WITH CAMERA (2.07) WIDE OF INTERVIEW WITH BEGHJET PACOLLI, RELATIVE OF HEBIBI (2.14) SCU (SOUNDBITE) (English) PACOLLI SAYING: "I am very happy to announce that the liberation of the hostages is coming without any war, without any force, spontaneously. That is very important." (2.30) CLOSE OF SECURITY (2.35) WIDE OF PACOLLI SITTING (2.40) SCU (SOUNDBITE) (English) PACOLLI SAYING: "I know that my mission is finished in that moment in which she is free, and she is a free citizen she can stay here, she can go at home or she can do anything she want. My mission is finished in that moment."(2.59) WIDE OF INTERVIEW WITH U.N SPOKESMAN MANOEL DE ALMEIDA E SILVA (3.06) SCU (SOUNDBITE) (English) SILVA: "Security is a concern that we have, we have had since the beginning of this phase of the operation, almost 3 years ago. We always talk about it so there is no secret that this is a concern. Of course, a kidnapping situation raises the level of that concern because it's a very serious matter." (3.33) VARIOUS OF AFGHAN POLICE CHECKING VEHICLES (3.43) CLOSE OF AFGHAN SOLDIER HOLDING GUN (3.48) VARIOIUS OF SOLDIERS SEARCHING CAR (3.59) WIDE OF SOLDIERS CHECKING CAR AT CHECKPOINT (4.02)
- Embargoed: 8th December 2004 12:00
- Location: KABUL, AFGHANISTAN /ARMAGH, NORTHERN IRELAND, UK
- Country: Afghanistan United Kingdom
- Topics: Conflict,General,Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA965573P1ILCMOMUQ6WGFAVMHT
- Story Text: U.N. hostages freed unharmed in Afghanistan.
Three foreign U.N. workers held hostage in Afghanistan were freed unharmed on Tuesday (November 23), almost four weeks after their abduction at gunpoint on a Kabul street raised fears of a wave of Iraq-style kidnappings.
Video obtained by Reuters of the released U.N. workers showed them looking tired but smiling broadly as they embraced colleagues.
Asked how he felt, Filipino diplomat Angelito Nayan replied: "Very, very good...but can I just quickly change."
Nayan, Annetta Flanigan from Northern Ireland and Kosovan Shqipe Hebibi were "abandoned" early in the morning at an unidentified location in Kabul, the interior minister said. He denied any deal had been done to free them.
"At about 3:30 pm this afternoon Kabul time we had the opportunity to finally meet Angelito Nayan. We did meet him in the flesh and we had the opportunity to talk to him, we allowed him I guess to talk to us on whatever topic he wanted to talk to us about. We didn't press him for anything, we didn't ask him too many questions. He was in good spirit, he appeared to be in very good health," said Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Jose Brillantes at a news conference in the capital Kabul.
The hostages were freed a day after U.S. and Afghan forces mounted operations in downtown Kabul and to the north of the city in which one suspect was killed and more than a dozen detained, including a doctor working for the United Nations, but it was not clear if these operations led to the hostages' release.
U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad called the release of the hostages "a major defeat to terrorists who wanted to export an Iraq-style of hostage-taking in Afghanistan".
The three were abducted on October 28 after helping run a presidential election won by U.S.-backed incumbent Hamid Karzai and had been threatened with death by a Taliban splinter faction, Jaish-e Muslimeen (Army of Muslims), which claimed to hold them.
The workers were snatched from their U.N. vehicle in a busy street just a few hundred metres (yards) from their office.
Work of U.N. and other foreign relief organisations, already greatly restricted in the south and east of the country by Islamic militant violence, was further hampered as foreign staff were largely confined to compounds for fear of more abductions.
"I am very happy to announce that the liberation of the hostages is coming without any war, without any force, spontaneously. That is very important," said Kosovan businessman Beghjet Pacolli, a relative of Hebibi.
Jaish leader Akbar Agha insisted Flanigan and Nayan were freed in return for 24 Taliban prisoners, and Hebibi after an appeal by Pacolli.
Akbar denied any ransom had been paid while Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali insisted no deal of any kind had been done.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan paid tribute to the government's "crucial role" in freeing the hostages and said the United Nations would continue to work to boost staff security to enable it to fulfil its mandate in Afghanistan.
Jalali described the kidnappers as "criminals" but said they could have been hired by Jaish. He vowed they would all be brought to justice.
Pacolli, who spent weeks in Kabul working to release the hostages, denied paying money.
"I know that my mission is finished in that moment in which she is free, and she is a free citizen she can stay here, she can go home or she can do anything she want. My mission is finished in that moment," a jubilant Pacolli told Reuters.
Echoing threats of militants in Iraq, Jaish had threatened to behead the hostages, but the kidnappers let deadline after deadline pass and even let the hostages phone home.
The United States had warned against any deal to free the trio, say ing it would only encourage more kidnapping.
Asked if his group would carry out more kidnappings, Agha replied: "We will use every tactic to secure the release of the Taliban jailed either by the U.S. forces or the government."
In Armagh, Northern Ireland, Andrew Flanigan, brother of Annetta said: "On behalf of the family I wish to state that we are all absolutely overjoyed at the confirmed news that Annetta and her two colleagues Shqipe and Angelito have been released. After all the terrible anxiety of the last 27 days it is an incredible relief to know that Annetta is safe and well and now reunited with her husband Jose. We wish to express our sincere gratitude to all those who worked so hard to secure Netta's freedom. Annetta and Jose have particularly asked me to thank those Afghan people who risked so much to bring about her release. As a family we remain very grateful for everyone's concern about A well-being and for all the messages we have received from family and friends and also from people all over the world.
We have been supported by these messages and the kindness shown by the wider community."
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