Canada denies any Taliban exchanged for journalist

Mon Nov 10, 2008 5:23pm EST
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian and Afghan officials denied on Monday that any jailed Taliban leaders were released in exchange for a Canadian journalist freed after being held hostage for a month in Afghanistan.

A Pakistan newspaper reported two Taliban leaders being held in Afghanistan on terrorism charges were let go in return for the safe release of Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) reporter Mellissa Fung, who was freed on Saturday.

"That is not correct," Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters in Ottawa.

Afghanistan's embassy in Ottawa also denied the report, saying Fung was freed "after four weeks of intensive efforts which culminated in a raid by Afghan forces" on the compound where she was being held captive.

The governments also denied any cash ransom was paid for Fung, who was abducted on October 12, by armed men at a United Nations refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul.

"The Afghan government has not closed the case yet, as Afghan security institutions continue to pursue the kidnappers in order to determine the identity of the main culprits and the motivations behind it," the embassy said in a statement.

The CBC says Fung's kidnappers were likely criminals rather than members of the Taliban, but Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper quoted Taliban sources on Monday as saying a violent tug-of-war for Fung erupted between insurgents and the criminals after she was taken hostage.

(Reporting David Ljunggren, Allan Dowd; Editing by Peter Galloway)

 
<p>Freed Canadian journalist Mellissa Fung (L) is seated next to Amrullah Saleh, the head of the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), after being released in Kabul November 8, 2008. REUTERS/Intelligence Service Office Handout</p>