French journalists return home after Afghanistan hostage ordeal [VIDEO]
Hervé Ghesquierè and Stéphane Taponier were joyously welcomed home after 547 days as hostages of the Taliban.
Paris Hervé Ghesquierè and Stéphane Taponier
Joy came to France this morning as the last two journalists held hostage under war conditions arrived home after 547 days in Taliban captivity. They said the ordeal raised their awareness of other hostages held “everywhere in the world.”Skip to next paragraph
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Hervé Ghesquierè and Stéphane Taponier of France 3 television started reporting in Afghanistan while embedded with a French military unit and were abducted in 2009 in the Kapisa Valley after visiting a town without the protection of troops, in order to get an authentic take on the area.
Today the two landed at a military air base outside Paris amid throngs of French journalists and hugged each other and family, answering questions in an ebullient moment. "We're doing really, really, really well," said Mr. Taponier, a cameraman who has worked in Gaza and Lebanon. “We stayed optimistic.”
When French Prime Minister Francois Fillon announced yesterday the release of the two at the National Assembly, that body erupted in a standing ovation. France has a famed tradition of patriotic emotion on the return home of captives. The release of a French-Colombian celebrity politician, Ingrid Betancourt, after six years held in the jungle brought a day of celebration two years ago.
The two France 3 journalists today described their ordeal as grueling due to poor conditions, lack of food, and uncertainty, but said they were not treated badly by their Taliban captors. Their translator, an Afghan national named Reza Din, was also released.
“We were never threatened, never beaten, never tied up,” Taponier said. “But we were locked up 23 hours and 45 minutes [a day], with very little to eat, and always the same thing, ‘Afghan mountain special.’ It might sound stupid, food, but it's vital."
Mr. Ghesquierè, who worked in the Rwanda, Kosovo, and Balkan wars, said the experience has him thinking more of other unfortunates who are locked away or kidnapped. "There are many hostages in the world, I am really thinking about them,” he told colleagues today. “To be a hostage is complicated and difficult… I feel a deep emotion for them."