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Italian hostage in Afghanistan freed

June 10, 2005

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KABUL, June 9: Italian hostage Clementina Cantoni was released on Thursday after an ordeal lasting more than three weeks and without any ransom being paid, Afghanistan’s interior minister said.

“I am pleased to announce this evening that we were able to release Clementina, who was taken hostage 24 days ago,” Interior Minister Ali Ahmed Jalali told reporters at a hastily arranged late-night press conference.

“The policy of the Afghan government is not to deal with the hostage-takers. We did not pay any ransom,” Mr Jalali said.

Ms Cantoni, 32, who works for the aid group CARE International, was kidnapped by gunmen on May 16 while driving in downtown Kabul. The abduction sent shockwaves through both the Afghan and foreign communities in the capital.

Afghan authorities said earlier that Ms Cantoni was abducted by a criminal gang rather than by militants.

“Clementina Cantoni’s release is an enormous relief,” Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said. —AFP