TORONTO – A Canadian TV journalist was stabbed during her October abduction in Afghanistan and held nearly four weeks in an underground warren by a family of kidnappers seeking ransom for her release.
But, in an interview broadcast Wednesday, Mellissa Fung, a 35-year-old reporter with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., credited her freedom to a prisoner exchange, not money.
"I now understand that Afghan intelligence had sort of fingered the family of the ring leader of this gang and had arrested a whole bunch of them, and it was a prisoner exchange," Fung told the CBC. "They agreed to release the family if they agreed to release me."
Fung said her captors told her they had kidnapped two Europeans and released them after a ransom was paid.
"They told me when I arrived that they had two other people, at least, there and he said they were Europeans," Fung said. "A week later he said the money came for them and they just left today so, 'Once money comes for you, you can leave, too."'
She spoke of the ordeal from an undisclosed location overseas.
Fung was kidnapped Oct. 12 as she finished interviews at a Kabul refugee camp. Armed men jumped from a car and grabbed her. She was stabbed during the struggle, she said, and was held down on the floor of a car, bleeding from her shoulder and unaware of where she was going or who was taking her there.
"That was one of the scariest moments," she said. "I didn't know what was happening."
She said she hid a cell phone in her pants during a 20-minute drive, but the phone beeped and they took it from her. She said they eventually arrived at a hole and she was told to get in.
"I said, 'I'm not going in there,"' Fung said. "'There's no way."'
Fung said she was thrown in and found it led to a tunnel and small underground room. She said she was kept under near-constant surveillance, though her guards normally slept their shifts away.
She described the "head kidnapper" as a man of about 18 or 19 who spoke English fairly well and told her the family's father in Pakistan was the one handling negotiations for her release.
Fung said she faked being sick to speed up negotiations and told herself: "Dying is not an option."
She said they told her they were Taliban, but she didn't believe them because they weren't organized or political. Afghan tribal elders and government officials won her safe release late Saturday, 28 days after her kidnapping.
Fung said she's had trouble sleeping since, but is ready to get back to her normal life and reporting.
The abduction was not widely reported. Western news organizations honored requests by her employer and the government to withhold the information to protect her during the effort to win her release.
"I am surprised because I'm a journalist and I'd want to report on it, but if your talking about somebody's life I think that supersedes a good story. I thank everybody for cooperating," Fung said.