KANDAHAR: The Taliban said Saturday that France had “not paid much attention” to their demands for securing the release of two French journalists held captive for more than a year.
Herve Ghesquiere and Stephane Taponier, a reporter and a cameraman working for France 3 public television, were kidnapped with three Afghan colleagues in December 2009.
“We presented our conditions and demands even one year ago to the French government... They are very simple and easy conditions,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.
“But unfortunately they have not paid much attention to our conditions and the rights of their citizens.”Mujahid refused to comment on the Taliban's demands from France but said their conditions were “not a big deal for the French government”.
“They were arrested for two reasons, first they did not contact us so we could provide the grounds for their visit and journalistic activities, they had come to the area without our permission,” he added.
“Second, they were engaged in gathering information that has the nature of intelligence gathering. The information and documents recovered from them suggest they were after intelligence gathering.” The journalists were travelling without a military escort in an area northwest of Kabul which is known as a stronghold of anti-government Islamic militants such as the Taliban, and where some French forces are stationed.
Paris angrily rejected any suggestion the pair were spies.
French authorities “categorically deny the absurd accusation of spying made against our compatriots,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“For a year, there have been constant talks to allow our compatriots to return to their families safe and sound,” the statement said.
“The determination of the French authorities remains unbroken today and, as the president (Nicolas Sarkozy) recalled on Friday, we will continue to mobilise all our efforts until the day they are freed.”A support committee for the journalists said the Taliban claims of spying were “completely uncalled for and baseless”.