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France appeals for release of aid worker

A French aid worker kidnapped in Afghanistan this month was probably not the intended target of the captors, his colleagues in Paris said on Thursday.
Afghanistan France Hostage
In this image made from a video obtained Wednesday by news agencies in Afghanistan, kidnapped French aid worker Dany Egreteau pleads for his release. AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A French aid worker kidnapped in Afghanistan this month was probably not the intended target of the captors, his colleagues in Paris said on Thursday.

Dany Egreteau, 32, was captured by gunmen in Kabul on Nov. 3 as he drove to work with another aid worker, who managed to escape. An Afghan who tried to prevent the kidnapping was killed.

Egreteau was working for Solidarite Laique — or Secular Solidarity — which describes itself as a not-for-profit group working to promote education and health care, among other issues.

Roland Biache, managing director of the Paris-based NGO, said the kidnappers had made no specific demands as yet.

"It is very clear that our organization and Dany in particular were not the targets. It is safe to assume that it was the organization he was visiting that day that was being targeted," Biache said at a news conference at Solidarite Laique's headquarters.

"For the moment, we are establishing no link between the recent statements by the Taliban threatening France because of the French military presence (in Afghanistan) and the work of NGOs," he added.

Egreteau has appeared in a video with two rifles pressed to either side of his head and chains around his legs. In the video, obtained by news agencies in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the dirt-streaked man barely seems to open his eyes as he pleads for his release.

"I have been here for the last eight days, fully in the black," says the hostage.

Demand for ransom
It was unclear when the video was taken, although Egreteau's statement suggests it was shot just over a week after he was ambushed.

His voice trembled at times. He refers to a ransom demand, begging for someone to pay it off.

A French official said authorities confirmed that the video showed Egreteau. The official would not comment further and spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity surrounding hostage-takings.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said France is doing "all we can so that this young man ... gets out as soon as possible."

"We can say that it is an industry, we can say it is awful, we can say a lot of things about these politico-industrial kidnappings," Kouchner told reporters in Paris.

He would not comment about the video, citing the hostage's security.

Security has deteriorated across Afghanistan over the last two years, and the capital, Kabul, has seen a spike in crimes against Westerners in the last several weeks.

Last month, a British-South African dual citizen aid worker, Gayle Williams, was killed by Taliban gunmen while walking to work. Also, two employees of the international shipping company DHL, one a British citizen and the other a South African, were killed by a gunman outside their office.

At the end of the tape, the camera pans down to Egreteau's dirt-caked fingernails and the chains. His captors are not visible.