Abducted British journalist freed in Pakistan

New York, September 9, 2010–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed the release of British journalist Asad Qureshi from captivity in Pakistan. He was held for more than five months in a tribal area bordering Afghanistan.

The British High Commission in Islamabad confirmed today that Qureshi, a freelance documentarian, had been freed, but did not provide further details, according to international news reports. Qureshi went missing en route to North Waziristan on March 26 to interview Taliban leaders for a documentary. A previously unknown militant group calling itself the Asian Tigers later claimed responsibility for the abduction and issued hostage videos and demands for Qureshi’s release. It was not clear whether those demands had been met.

The whereabouts of Sultan Amir Tarar, a former Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence official, who was traveling with Qureshi as a guide when he was captured, are not known. A second guide, Khalid Khawaja, also a former intelligence official, was found shot to death in April in North Waziristan, with a note accusing him of spying for America, according to international news reports.

“We’re relieved by the release of Asad Qureshi,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator. “We call on the government to do everything in its power to bring Qureshi’s abductors to justice. Journalists operating in areas along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to face great risk.”

Qureshi, who is of Pakistani descent, has lived and worked as a documentary filmmaker in Pakistan for the last few years, according to news reports.

Japanese freelance journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka, who spent more than five months in captivity in northern Afghanistan, was released to the Japanese Embassy on Saturday night. He returned to Japan on Monday.

At least three journalists are still being held captive in the region. Taliban kidnappers abducted France 3 television journalists Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier, their translator, Mohammed Reza, and the group’s unidentified driver in Afghanistan’s eastern Kapisa province in December 2009. Canadian journalist Beverley Giesbrecht, who goes by the name Khadija Abdul Qahaar, has been held captive in Pakistan since November 11, 2008.