Kidnappers have demanded a ransom of two million dollars and release of three Afghan Taliban leaders.—File photo

CHITRAL Kidnappers of Greek engineer Athanasius Lerounis have demanded a ransom of two million dollars and release of three Afghan Taliban leaders in return for his freedom.

Former union council nazim Abdul Majid, who led a delegation to Afghanistan's Nooristan province for negotiations with the Taliban, returned on Saturday and told reporters that the Greek volunteer had been kept in Kamdesh area and was 'safe and sound'.

Mr Lerounis, who is revered by the Kalash as a 'hero', was kidnapped from Bumburate valley on Sept 8. Members of the delegation were allowed to meet Mr Lerounis and they were apprised of the conditions set by the Taliban for his freedom.
The Taliban leaders whose release has been sought include Ubaidullah Akhund, a former defence minister in the Mullah Omar's government, Mulla Yasir and Qari Rehmatuddin. Mr Majid informed the authorities in Chitral about Taliban's conditions.

In his letter addressed to friends and written on Sept 19, Mr Lerounis said he was fine and faced no serious problem since he had been taken to Nooristan.

'Now I am living with a group of Taliban. They are very hospitable and try their best for my life and security. The behaviour of Taliban to me is very good,' the letter said.

'I would like to thank all those people who are trying their best to solve my problem, especially Mr Majid and Mr Nasir who came to Nooristan to visit me and try to solve the problem.

'Please call my relatives, members of the Greek Volunteers (NGO) and my embassy in Islamabad and inform them that I am in good health and do not worry about me,' the letter concluded.

Athanasius Lerounis has been actively engaged in development of the Kalash since 1994 and carried out a number of projects in health and education sectors, besides preserving the Kalash culture.

Kalash people have warned that if the government fails to secure the release of the Greek volunteer they will shift to another country after Eidul Fitr in protest.

They have also offered to sell their properties to pay the ransom money for his release.