French hostage freed in Afghanistan

A Frenchman held hostage for more than four months in Afghanistan has been freed in a Taliban-troubled area near Kabul, officials said Monday.

Pierre Borghi, who was trying to establish himself as a photographer in Kabul, was freed in Wardak province outside the capital on Sunday night, Afghan police said.

"He has been released," a spokesman for the French embassy in Kabul told AFP, giving no further details.

The circumstances of his release was not immediately clear. Wardak is troubled by a Taliban-led insurgency but there has been no claim for Borghi's kidnapping.

"Yes, he has been released, he was found by our guards in Maidan Shar town last night at around 9:00 pm (1630 GMT)," Shoib Sharifi, director of the Afghan Public Protection Force, told AFP.

Sharifi said the Frenchman may have escaped. "He was found near one of our check posts in Maidan Shar. Our guards brought him to Kabul."

Sharifi said Borghi was taken to the interior ministry and was being handed over to the French embassy.

Borghi worked in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012 for French charity Solidarites International and returned to Kabul last year to take photographs. The details of how he was abducted are unknown.

Westerners have been kidnapped regularly in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion brought down the Taliban regime in late 2001, with victims often taken hostage by criminals and sold on to militants.

The last known foreign hostage incident was at the end of last month when a German man working for an international aid agency was freed after briefly being kidnapped in northeastern Afghanistan.

The man was taken by suspected Taliban militants in the mountainous Badakhshan province while out jogging with his dog, police said.

His employer, the German government-owned aid body GIZ, confirmed that he had been found unharmed within 24 hours of going missing.

Last June NATO special forces rescued one British and one Nigerian woman held hostage in a cave in Badakhshan.

The women, who worked for Swiss-based charity Medair, and two Afghan colleagues had been held for about a week before they were freed unharmed.

Two French journalists were captured while covering the conflict in December 2009 and finally freed in June 2011 after 18 months in captivity.

One of the men, television reporter Herve Ghesquiere, later suggested that an exchange deal involving money and prisoners secured his release from the Taliban.

The French and Afghan governments both denied that a ransom was paid for the release of Ghesquiere and cameraman Stephane Taponier.

In August 2010 the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing eight medical aid workers in Badakhshan, claiming they were "Christian missionaries".

Five Bangladeshi workers kidnapped in Afghanistan in December 2011 were freed seven months later, saying they had been chained up for much of their time in captivity as prisoners of suspected Taliban insurgents.