French hostages beg for France to save them from execution

Afghan Taliban are demanding the French government free several terrorist detainees in exchange for two French journalists kidnapped in Afghanistan in Dec. ’09.

The Taliban circulated a video statement by the hostages that was posted on an Islamist Web site on Sunday. It demanded a French TV broadcast of the comments and said three months of negotiations had failed. Then, in a statement e-mailed to news organizations Monday, the Taliban group said it had submitted a list of detainees — meaning not senior figures — held in Afghan or U.S. jails to the French government. It suggested the journalists would only be released if those prisoners were, too.

A France 3 reporter summarized part of Herve’s statement — that the two men are threatened with execution if the video is not aired and if the French government does not meet Taliban demands.

The e-mail said France’s government should pressure the U.S. and Afghan governments to meet the demands. Only those two governments hold detainees in Afghanistan. The French government has said it was cooperating with NATO to win the journalists’ release, but has stated little publicly about the abductions. It hasn’t identified the journalists, though news reports have identified them by their first names, Stephane and Herve.

The pair disappeared Dec. 30 along with two or three Afghan employees while traveling in Kapisa province, northeast of Kabul, where French soldiers are fighting the insurgents as part of a NATO mission.

Paris-based media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders criticized comments in February by the then-head of France’s armed forces, who said France had spent over euro10 million to try to find and free the journalists. In January, the watchdog group expressed its surprise after President Nicolas Sarkozy’s top adviser, Claude Gueant, told French radio that French officials had asked the journalists not to “venture out this way because there are risks,” and said they had displayed “guilty” imprudence. WASHINGTON EXAMINER