Two reporters held hostage in Afghanistan are freed

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The Independent Online

Two french journalists held hostage in Afghanistan since December 2009 were freed yesterday in good health.

France-3 television announced on air that the network's reporters Stéphane Taponier and Herve Ghesquiere had been released. President Nicolas Sarkozy later thanked "everyone who participated in freeing the hostages" and praised Afghan President Hamid Karzai for his management of the situation, without providing further details. The reporters' translator, Reza Din, was also released.

The Prime Minister, François Fillon, said the two men would be returning shortly to France.

The television journalists were kidnapped together with three Afghan associates while working on a story about reconstruction on a road east of Kabul. The Taliban said the insurgency movement was holding them and made a set of demands – never fully published – in exchange for the men's freedom.

It was not immediately known what led to their freedom after some 18 months of near silence. It is a French government policy not to pay ransom in exchange for hostages and French authorities have made it a policy to refuse all comment on delicate hostage negotiations.