British reporter to be freed
ISLAMABAD- The Taliban said they would release British female journalist Yvonne Ridley, arrested a week ago for entering Afghanistan illegally.
Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) that Ridley would be released “either today or tomorrow.”
Taliban leader (Mullah Mohammad Omar) issued the order following the British government’s request for her release,” Zaeef said.
The statement, which came hours after British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a lightning visit to Pakistan, did not mention any conditions placed on Ridley’s released.
Ridley was detained near Jalalabad on September 28 after slipping into the country disguised in burqa, accompanied by two Afghan guides. She was not carrying a passport or Taliban visa. The Taliban had said Ridley would be placed on trial and was being investigated on possible spying charges. Ridley’s family said they were delighted by the news.
He mother, 74-year old Joyce Ridley, told BBC: “I feel elated, it is such wonderful news.”
She said, however, that she was trying not to build up her hopes too much. She said that Ridley’s daughter, Daisy, who celebrated her ninth birthday on Wednesday, had not yet been told of her mother’s imminent release.
Ridley had reportedly apologised to the Taliban for entering the country, saying she was trying to report on the plight of Afghan refugees for her newspaper, the Sunday Express.
In Saturday’s statement, Zaeef did not comment on the fate of Ridley’s guide, who were arrested at the same time.
A spokesmen for the British High Commission in Islamabad, Rachel Jamieson, said the office was urgently trying to receive confirmation from the Taliban, but had been unable to do so.
Jamieson said a group from the Sunday Express had met Taliban officials in Islamabad on Friday morning, before the regime’s announcement, and had been told no decision had been made on Ridley’s fate.
Pakistan revealed it had placed diplomatic pressure on the Taliban, telling the regime Ridley should be released immediately but indicating it had not received any confirmation that she would be.
“Pakistan had conveyed (to Taliban) that this journalist should be released without delay,” Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman told reporters in Islamabad.