Taliban seek $2 mn, release of leaders for abducted Greek

The captors of a Greek national, kidnapped in northwest Pakistan last week, have demanded a ransom of USD 2 million and the release of three Afghan Taliban leaders in return for setting him free.

Islamabad: The captors of a Greek national, kidnapped in northwest Pakistan last week, have demanded a ransom of USD 2 million and the release of three Afghan Taliban leaders in return for setting him free.
Athanasios Lerounis was abducted from Bumbarate valley in the Chitral area of North West Frontier Province on September 7 by gunmen who shot dead his bodyguard.

He had been living in Chitral for several years and was an employee of a development project working with the reclusive Kalash tribals.

Former local government official Abdul Majid, who led a team to Afghanistan`s Nooristan province for negotiations with the Taliban for Lerounis` release, told reporters yesterday that the Greek national was being held in Kamdesh area in Afghanistan and was "safe and sound".

Members of Majid`s delegation were allowed to meet Lerounis and were apprised of the conditions set by the Taliban for his release.

The three Taliban leaders whose release has been sought by the militants are Ubaidullah Akhund, a former defence minister in Mullah Omar`s government, Mulla Yasir and Qari Rehmatuddin. All three men are reportedly in the custody of Pakistani authorities.

Majid said he had informed authorities in Chitral about the conditions set by the Taliban for the Greek man`s release. Majid also said the Taliban had offered to free Lerounis unconditionally if he converted to Islam. Lerounis had not made any decision on the offer, he said.

In a letter addressed to friends and written on September 19, Lerounis said he was fine and had faced no serious problem since he was taken to Nooristan.

"Now I am living with a group of Taliban. They are very hospitable and try their best for my life and security. The behaviour of Taliban to me is very good," the letter said.

"Please call my relatives, members of the (NGO) Greek Volunteers and my embassy in Islamabad and inform them that I am in good health and do not worry about me," it concluded.

Kalash tribals have said that if the government fails to secure the release of the Greek national, they will shift to another country after the Eid festival in protest. They have offered to sell their properties to pay the ransom for his release.

Bureau Report

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