French Journalists Freed By Taliban
4:05am 30th June 2011
(Updated 3:04am 1st July 2011)
Two French television journalists kidnapped in Afghanistan have arrived back in France after spending 18 months as prisoners of the Taliban.
Cameraman Stephane Taponier and reporter Herve Ghesquiere, of state network France 3, and their Afghan interpreter were seized in November 2009 in the mountains of Kapisa, east of Kabul.
They stepped onto home soil and into the arms of their families at the Villacoublay air base outside Paris following a nationwide campaign for their release.
Also there to greet them were the French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.
Mr Ghesquiere said at the airport: "We were never threatened with death, never beaten."
He said he and his colleague were tired and had "some minor health problems", and confirmed they were held separately for eight months.
The Taliban accused the journalists of spying.
In January, then-al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden threatened France in an audio tape, saying the journalists' release would depend on the country withdrawing soldiers from Afghanistan.
It is not clear whether France made any concessions to secure the release, but foreign minister Alain Juppe insisted it did not pay ransom for hostages.
He said Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai had helped Paris secure the return of Taponier and Ghesquiere.
France has nearly 4,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting against the Taliban.