After initial claims by some news media that they were being held by the Taliban, spokesmen for a few Taliban organizations told news organizations in Kabul on Sunday that they were not holding the men, but many local Taliban groups operate independently. Agence France-Presse quoted French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner today as saying: “We are trying to establish contact. But I am saying very clearly, we have none.” AFP said the five men disappeared while on their way to meet a source 40 miles (60 kilometers) from Kabul, near French military bases.
The French government issued a statement saying French troops in the area had launched a search for the men. According to AFP, Kouchner said he believed the journalists were still alive, based on the French military’s knowledge of the area where they were taken.
“Along with their Afghan and French colleagues, we share the concern for these men’s safety, and hope that they will soon be found,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The brutal reality is that very often it is the Afghan victims who bear the brunt of rescue attempts—we hope that all sides show restraint as this situation is resolved.”
Abductions and attacks on journalists appear to be accelerating in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, Calgary Herald and CanWest reporter Michelle Lang was killed in by a roadside improvised explosive device while traveling with Canadian troops in Kandahar. She was the after conflict there began in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Eleven of those who died were foreign reporters.
In April 2007, Ajmal Naqshbandi was beheaded in the Garmsir district of Helmand province after the Afghan government refused demands to free jailed Taliban leaders in exchange for his release. Naqshbandi had been abducted on March 4, 2007, with La Repubblica reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo and the group’s driver, Sayed Agha, in Helmand province. Agha was slain a few days after the abduction, while the Italian Mastrogiacomo was released March 19, 2007, in exchange for five Taliban prisoners.