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Taliban frees British journalist

Yvonne Ridley
Ridley has been freed by the Taliban and taken to Pakistan  

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A female British journalist freed by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban after 10 days in detention has said she is "delighted."

Yvonne Ridley, who was taken to the Afghanistan border and turned over to Pakistani officials on Monday, said she now wants to see her eight-year-old daughter.

Ridley, 43, a reporter with the London-based Sunday Express, was arrested by the Taliban on September 28.

It said she was detained as she attempted to slip into Afghanistan dressed like an Afghan woman.

After being brought to the border crossing at Torkham, Pakistani officials said, she was taken to Peshawar, where she was met by British officials for a trip to Islamabad.

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A Foreign Office spokeswoman in London said: "Our High Commission in Islamabad have confirmed that Yvonne Ridley is at the office of senior Pakistani officials in Peshawar.

"Consular officials are meeting her there and will give her all assistance she requires."

In a statement, Ridley said: "Obviously I am delighted to be free after 10 days under arrest.

"I would like to thank all those who have worked for my release including the Foreign Office, the Pakistan government and of course my company Express Newspapers.

"I am now desperate to get home to see my daughter Daisy."

She later told Sky News: "I'm fine, it's good to be here. They (the Taliban) treated me with respect and courtesy."

An Express Newspapers spokeswoman said: "We hope to see her home as soon as possible."

Martin Townsend, editor of the Sunday Express, said: "We are delighted to hear that Yvonne is safe in Pakistan although we won't be celebrating until she is back safe on British soil.

"Our thoughts are still with the eight aid workers held captive in Afghanistan. We hope and pray to see their early release."

Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons that Ridley had been released and handed over to Pakistani officials.

Pakistani television images showed Ridley wearing a head-dress and clutching a bottle of mineral water as she arrived in a car at the border.

She appeared in good health and good spirits as she climbed from the vehicle.

It was the first sighting of the 43-year-old mother-of-one since her arrest. The release ended 48 hours of speculation over her status.

Throughout Monday, Taliban and Pakistani officials said she had been released.

Asked earlier in the day if Ridley had been released, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, told Reuters: "Yes, she was escorted out of Kabul at about 12 noon."

After being brought to the border crossing at Torkham, Pakistani officials said, she was expected to be brought to Peshawar, where she was to meet British officials and travel to Islamabad.


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• UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office
• Express Newspapers

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