Released French aid worker arrives in France


Paris : A French aid worker kidnapped in Afghanistan by the Islamic extremist Taliban arrived in Paris Saturday in a visibly weakened condition.

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Eric Damfreville, who was handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross in southern Kandahar province Friday evening after weeks in captivity, said he had been "well treated," . The Frenchman arrived at Villacoublay air force base with one eye bandaged and a transfusion hooked up to his arm.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy greeted the activist upon his arrival at the air base.

"Our kidnappers did everything they could to make the conditions of our detention good," Damfreville said, explaining his appearance on the "harsh life in southern Afghanistan" and the rustic conditions of his 38 days in captivity.

Taliban militants kidnapped Damfreville along with co-worker and woman member of the team Celine Cordelier (both with children's aid agency Terre d'Enfance) in Nimroz province on April 2 and demanded the French government withdraw its approximately 1,000 troops conducting peacekeeping operations under the NATO command. Three Afghan aid workers were also kidnapped at the same time.

Cordelier had been released about two weeks ago.

The Taliban said Damfreville was released because of the election of Nicolas Sarkozy as French president.

He said, "If he was elected, he would consider the withdrawal of French forces from Afghanistan. We believe that (Sarkozy) will fulfil his promises," the Taliban said in a statement.

"France is a great country in the world, the national interests of both Afghanistan and France should be prioritised in their foreign policy," the statement said, adding, France "should not sacrifice their national interests for the sake of America's stubbornness."

There was no mention of the three Afghan aid workers kidnapped along with the two French nationals.