Hostages arrive home after 14 months

Andrew Buncombe
Sunday 20 September 1998 23:02
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AFTER BEING held hostage for more than 14 months in Chechnya, two British aid workers were dramatically given their freedom yesterday.

Pale, tired, but clearly jubilant Jon James and Camilla Carr arrived back in Britain late last night, flown by a leading Russian businessman who has been central to their release. Foreign Office officials admitted they still knew little about the release and had been told only yesterday morning.

Arriving back at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, last night, 443 days after being seized in the Chechen capital, Grozny, the couple said it was hard to put their feelings into words.

"When you have been captive for all that time then when you come and see the dawn and see all our family again..." said Ms Carr, 40, from Lydney, Gloucestershire.

The couple, sitting close together, said they had only been told they were to be released at the last minute

Officials believe the couple may have been moved up to 14 times by Chechen rebels, opposed to the government, during their time in captivity.

Yesterday morning they were flown to Moscow from Ingushetia, the Russian Federal Republic neighbouring Chechnya. After being met by embassy staff in Moscow the couple were flown straight on to Brize Norton still in the private jet chartered by the Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky.

While the Foreign Office and the hostages' families were adamant no ransom had been paid by themselves, it was not known whether the Russian tycoon had made a payment to secure their release.

Despite their ordeal the couple said they did not feel bitter towards their captors.

"They had no jobs and no money. They were desperate," said Ms Carr.

The couple said they had helped each other through their days in captivity.

"Each of us got us through it. Talking to each other on our down days and the love," said Mr James, 38, when asked what had kept him going.

Relatives of the couple said they were ecstatic by the release, which came three weeks after a video of the two hostages was released. Foreign Office minister Baroness Symons, who met the couple at Brize Norton, said embassy staff in Moscow had been working in Chechnya to try to secure the release since the couple were seized in July last year.

Freedom at last, page 3

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