Kidnapped Canadian kept in well in Afghanistan: official

KABUL (AFP) – A Canadian journalist freed after nearly a month in captivity was kept in a well near Kabul, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said Sunday, adding three men had been arrested.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation journalist Mellissa Fung — who was kidnapped by armed men on October 12 as she visited a refugee camp on the outskirts of the Afghan capital — was freed late Saturday.

“The Canadian journalist was being kept in a well in Wardak province,” National Directorate of Security (NDS) spokesman Sayed Ansari told a press conference.

She was handed over to NDS officials near the provincial capital Maydan Shah, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) southwest of Kabul, provincial government spokesman Adam Khan Sirat told AFP.

There had been no deal for her release, he said.

Ansari said the woman had been held in a similar fashion to a member of the royal family and former presidential candidate, Humayun Shah Asifi, who was kidnapped last month and held for about 10 days.

Asifi was kept for days with the adult son of a Kabul banker in a one-by-two metre (yard) hole about five metres (16 feet) underground outside of the capital.

Three men had been arrested for involvement in the kidnapping of Fung but they were only mid-level players, Ansari said. The kingpins were being sought, although one had fled the country, he added.

He would not give details about the captured men.

The abduction, kept secret on the request of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation out of concern for Fung’s safety, has been blamed on criminal groups, and the insurgent Taliban has denied involvement.

About two weeks after Fung’s kidnapping a Dutch female journalist, whose abductor claimed to be with the Taliban, was kidnapped and held for about 10 days before being released on Friday.

A French aid worker was snatched in the city centre on Monday and is still missing.

His kidnapping has been blamed on organised crime which has been climbing and, with increased insurgent attacks, has left security at its weakest since the Taliban were removed from power after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

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