Taliban Say They Released Journalist

By: Christopher Torchia, Associated Press Writer

(AP) A Taliban security official said Thursday that a Canadian free-lance journalist captured by the Islamic militia has been released, but a Pakistani intelligence official said it appeared Ken Hechtman was still being detained.

The Taliban official said Hechtman, who was writing for the weekly Montreal Mirror, was detained at sunset Tuesday in the town of Spinboldak, in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan about 10 miles from this Pakistani border town.

On Wednesday, the Taliban put Hechtman in a taxi bound for the border, the official said on condition of anonymity.

“From there, we don’t know what happened,” he said.

But a Pakistani intelligence official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said Thursday that the Taliban were still holding Hechtman in Spinboldak.

The two reports could not be reconciled.

It had been reported that Hechtman was chained or tied up by his captors and may have been assaulted. But the Taliban official said he was treated well.

“He was provided with food and water and was given a separate room,” he said.

Western journalists are barred from entering Taliban-held Afghanistan, so there was no way to verify his claim.

Pakistani officials and Canadian diplomats have been working to determine what happened to Hechtman and to win his release.

Hechtman, 33, has been in Pakistan and Afghanistan since early October. His most recent report for the Mirror, from Peshawar, Pakistan, appeared in the Nov. 22 edition. A Nov. 15 article was from Taliban-held territory in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan remains a dangerous place for journalists. Eight have been killed since Oct. 7, when the United States launched a military campaign to drive the Taliban from power for harboring Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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