Two Afghan Journalists Released By Taliban Kidnappers

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Taliban militants who kidnapped two Afghan journalists have released them after three days in captivity, officials said Sunday.

The two journalists freed late Saturday are Dawa Khan Menapal of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Aziz Popal, who worked for a local TV station in Kandahar, said Gulab Shah Alikheil, the deputy governor of Zabul province.

Militants kidnapped the two in Ghazni province on Wednesday as they were driving on the country's main Kabul-Kandahar highway.

The Taliban's high council ordered the pair released without any condition because they were journalists, said Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman.

Popal said he and Menapal were not mistreated but they were driven to new locations around twice a day.

The abductions follow the kidnappings and releases of a Canadian and a Dutch journalist around Kabul in recent weeks that have underscored an increasingly dangerous environment for journalists working in Afghanistan.

Two journalists in Afghanistan have been killed this year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Rahimullah Samandar, president of the Afghan Journalists Independent Association, said work for journalists in Afghanistan has become increasingly dangerous because of pressure from both armed militants and government officials.

Salih Mohammad Salih, who worked for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, said a Taliban commander named Rakmatullah repeatedly called him and told him he would send suicide bombers to attack him. Salih resigned from his job earlier this month.

"Freedom of speech has no meaning in this region," Salih said. "We have problems with Taliban and problems with other (government) officials. They always accuse journalists of trying to defame the government."

"As you know I have no soldiers to protect me. I can't protect myself," Salih said. "And my company told me they could not protect me. That's why I left."

Elsewhere in the country, a soldier with the NATO-led force in Afghanistan shot and killed an Afghan policeman in a car that was driving toward a NATO patrol at high speed.

Soldiers warned the approaching vehicle with hand signals, a mini flare and warning shots, but it continued its approach toward the convoy, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement Sunday.

Troops opened fire at the car, killing a passenger who officials later discovered was an Afghan police officer, the statement said.

The incident happened Saturday in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand province.

"This was an unfortunate incident but I do not blame the foreign forces," said Helmand's police chief, Col. Asadullah Sherzad.

NATO convoys fearing potential suicide bombers periodically fire on approaching cars. Many NATO vehicles have red and white warning signs telling drivers to stay back.