Taliban says frees French hostage in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan Fri May 11, 2007 11:19am EDT

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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A French aid worker captured by the Taliban over a month ago was released on Friday, a spokesman for the Afghan rebel group said.

Eric Damfreville of Terre d'Enfrance agency, an organization helping children in southwestern Afghanistan, was handed over to tribal elders in the southern province of Kandahar, Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf said.

He was later transferred to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Damfreville was kidnapped with three of his Afghan colleagues in the southwest of the country in early April.

"The Taliban Shura (leadership council) decided to free him for the newly elected French president ... had said in his utterances that France will deliberate over withdrawing French troops from Afghanistan," Yousuf told Reuters by phone from an undisclosed location.

The Taliban had demanded the release of Taliban prisoners held by the Afghan government or the withdrawal of some 1,100 French forces from Afghanistan in return for releasing the hostages.

Yousuf did not mention the three Afghans.

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