Taliban Frees French Aid Worker Kidnapped in Afghanistan

A French aid worker kidnapped by the Taliban in April was freed on Friday, the militant group and the international Red Cross said.

Eric Damfreville — working for the charity Terre d'Enfance — was kidnapped alongside his French colleague Celine Cordelier and three Afghans in southwestern Nimroz province on April 3. The Taliban released Cordelier on April 28.

After taking the group captive, the Taliban demanded the withdrawal of all remaining French troops from Afghanistan. France pulled 200 French special forces out of Afghanistan late last year and still has about 1,000 troops stationed in the country.

Qari Yousef Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the militants, told an Associated Press reporter via telephone that Taliban and tribal leaders decided to release Damfreville after comments by French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy in which he said French troops would not stay in Afghanistan indefinitely.

"The Taliban is expecting the French president to keep this promise," Ahmadi said. "The Taliban in the future want to have good relations with the French government and people."

The French Embassy in Kabul could not be reached for comment.

The Taliban released Damfreville to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which handed him to French authorities at a NATO base outside the southern city of Kandahar, said Red Cross spokesman Michael O'Brien.

There was no word on the fate of the three Afghans, O'Brien said.

The kidnapping of the French aid workers came two weeks after Afghan authorities released five Taliban prisoners in exchange for an Italian newspaper reporter who was abducted along with his two Afghan colleagues in southern Helmand province on March 5. The two Afghans were killed.

The deal was heavily criticized by the United States and some European nations. Afghan lawmakers and foreigners working in the country said it gave the Taliban incentive to stage more kidnappings.

The Afghan government has said the prisoner swap was a one-time deal for the Italian journalist, and has ruled out any future exchanges.