Canada reporter says swapped for Afghan prisoners

Wed Nov 12, 2008 4:32pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian journalist kidnapped near Kabul last month said on Wednesday that she had been released in exchange for relatives of her chief abductor, who the Afghan authorities had put in jail after she was seized.

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reporter Mellissa Fung was freed on Saturday after 28 days in captivity. She said most of the kidnappers had been very young men and were clearly members of a criminal gang rather than the Taliban.

"I now understand that Afghan intelligence had sort of fingered the family of the ringleader of this gang and had arrested a whole bunch of them and it was a prisoner exchange," she told the CBC in an hour-long interview.

"They agreed to release the family if the group would release me and that's what ended up happening," she said.

Fung, who was kept in a hole in the ground for most of her time in captivity, also said she had been stabbed in the shoulder during her abduction and that the kidnappers had told her, "We won't kill you."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters on Monday that no "political prisoners" had been exchanged for Fung, a choice of words that could exclude the possibility of family members being used in a swap.

Harper also said no ransom had been paid by the government, the CBC or anyone else to free the 35-year-old reporter.

Ron Hoffman, Canada's ambassador to Kabul, told reporters in Ottawa that the Afghan authorities "had arrested a number of people in the course of their investigation and some of them were ultimately let go following that process." He did not give more details.   Continued...