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NYT reporter freed from Taliban captors; interpreter killed in Afghanistan

NYT reporter freed from Taliban captors; interpreter killed in Afghanistan
Captured and freed: Stephen Farrell (above) and Sultan Munadi and were seized four days ago by Taliban fighters while interviewing Afghans near the scene of a NATO attack on two fuel tanker trucks last week that killed at least 55 people.

A New York Times reporter held by the Taliban in Afghanistan was freed during a dramatic airborne commando raid on Wednesday in which his Afghan colleague was killed, officials and the newspaper said.

Gunmen snatched Stephen Farrell, who is Irish, and Sultan Munadi, on Saturday while they were reporting on the aftermath of a NATO air strike that killed civilians and dozens of insurgents in the northern province of Kunduz, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The AFP report said: [Link]

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which has around 64,500 troops based in Afghanistan from more than 40 nations fighting against a Taliban-led insurgency, confirmed his release.

"Early this morning, joint forces from ISAF and Afghanistan entered a series of compounds in Kunduz and rescued the New York Times journalist Stephen Farrell," an ISAF spokesman told AFP.

Farrell was unhurt during the operation but his interpreter — a 34-year-old father of two who was working in Afghanistan on a break from university studies in Germany — was killed. In a brief telephone call Farrell, 46, told Susan Chira, the foreign editor of The New York Times: "I'm out! I'm free!" the newspaper reported.

"Farrell told her that he had been 'extracted' by a commando raid carried out by 'a lot of soldiers' in a fierce firefight with his captors. Mr Farrell said he had also called his wife," the newspaper reported.

Until now, the kidnapping had been kept quiet by the newspaper and most major news organisations out of concern for the men's safety.

In a second phone call to a New York Times reporter in Kabul, Farrell said he and his captors heard the thumping sound of approaching helicopters before the dramatic rescue. "We were all in a room, the Talibs all ran, it was obviously a raid," Farrell said. "We thought they would kill us. We thought should we go out." Farrell said as he and Munadi ran outside, he heard voices. "There were bullets all around us. I could hear British and Afghan voices."

Farrell was the second foreign correspondent working for the New York Times to be abducted in Afghanistan in less than a year. David Rohde and a local reporter were abducted outside Kabul with their driver last November, but escaped in June.

Date posted: September 9, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 340