Keller of 'NYT': Farrell Rescue A Surprise -- Still No Explanation on Why it Happened then -- No Ransom Demand

By: Joe Strupp The military rescue of New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell in Afghanistan early this morning was not expected, according to Executive Editor Bill Keller. But it was not a complete surprise as talks with military officials there had included speculation about a military action.

"We had talked to some of the military in Afghanistan about under what circumstances they might try a rescue," he told E&P. "But we had no advance word that this was something they might do. We have still not gotten an answer about why the decided to go in."

The military commando rescue, which included NATO forces, ended with the death of Times translator Sultan Munadi -- and one of the commandos -- but with Farrell's release. Keller said as the talks were occurring, it seemed a quick resolution might happen.

"Most of the signs we were getting were encouraging," Keller said Wednesday, just hours after Farrell was rescued by British commandos. "We were getting signals that this could be resolved quickly. The Taliban in Kunduz province is more self-contained. They were sending us messages that they wanted to talk."

As with the earlier detainment of Times reporter David Rohde, who was kidnapped last November and released in June, the Times asked major news outlets not to report the story. All agreed.

But unlike Rohde's situation, this kidnapping ended within a few days. Keller said no formal demands were ever made to the Times or ransom requested.

"Stephen said [after his release]that their situation seemed to be getting more menacing," Keller said. "High-level Taliban coming into assess the situation. There was talk of moving them out of that region. It is entirely possible that the NATO military picked up on those conversations and felt it was time to go in."

He said the Times communicated through intermediaries but did not specify details. He described Munadi as "beloved by all of the Times correspondents who worked with him. He was a mainstay of Kabul for years."

As for the news blackout requests, Keller said "all of the mainstream outlets were cooperative in keeping it quiet." He did not have an exact count of how many news organizations agreed not to report the kidnapping.

Keller, who was in his Southampton, N.Y., home for the Labor Day weekend when the kidnapping occurred, monitored it from there: "I worked the phone a lot. I am just glad to have Stephen back among the safe and living."


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here