Canadian journalist released by Taliban
Ken Hechtman, the Canadian journalist captured in Afghanistan almost a week ago, was released on Saturday. He said he's tired but unharmed.
The Montreal-based freelance reporter was turned over to Canadian officials at the Pakistani border outpost at Chaman and was later taken to the city of Quetta.
Hechtman told CBC that the Taliban arrested him Tuesday because they thought he might have been a spy. He had been dressed in traditional Afghan clothing when they picked him up during heavy U.S. aerial bombardment in southern Afghanistan.
"Because of the airstrikes, they were suspicious somebody was calling in those airstrikes, somebody on the ground, dressed like me, with a satellite phone...
"This makes them suspicious of anybody who's a foreigner, who's carrying maps, and so they thought I was a spy," he said
Hechtman said he wasn't scared during the ordeal because he was confident he could convince his captors that he was not behind the airstrikes.
"I knew I wasn't a spy. I knew I could prove I was a journalist. I knew I could prove that I was somewhat friendly and sympathetic this was all going to get sorted out," he said.
But he admitted being concerned at one point that a "hothead" might decide to shoot him.
His father, Peter Hechtman, said he expects son will be taken to Islamabad Sunday and, by Monday, on a flight home.
"We have been through an incredibly trying week," he said. "We're all emotionally exhausted, but right now are very, very relieved that Ken is safe and he is out of Afghanistan."
Earlier on Saturday, Taliban official Mullah Aminullah said his soldiers had been urged by Pakistani authorities to release the journalist they had been holding since Tuesday.
Canadian diplomats had gone to meet with officials in Spin Buldak, a town in Taliban-held territory 15 kilometres from the Pakistan border where Hechtman was kept.
The group Reporters without Borders was asked to help negotiate the writer's release. Taliban authorities agreed to let Hechtman after being shown proof that he is a journalist including copies of some of the articles he has written.
Hechtman said no ransom was paid for his release and that he was not abused while in custody.
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"I was treated just fine, just like any other prisoner, mostly left alone to sit in the sun... there is no Midnight Express horror story here," he said.
Taliban officials had considered prosecuting the reporter as a spy, Pakistani official Shafi Kakar said, because he was in the country without proper travel documents, carrying a satellite phone and maps of the area.
Hechtman has been in Afghanistan since early October, writing for the Montreal Mirror an alternative weekly newspaper and for the Web site straightgoods.com.
Since the U.S. launched air strikes on Afghanistan on Oct. 7, eight journalists have been killed.