Afghan guerrillas release AP reporter
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hezb-e-Islami guerrillas in Afghanistan released two journalists, one of whom is American, in mid-November after holding them for a week.
U.S. officials, in contact with the Afghan Embassy in Washington and with Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s representatives in Islamabad, Pakistan, pressed for the reporters’ freedom, and U.S. officials reported they were being well-treated.
John Jennings, an American reporter for the Associated Press, and Terrence White, a New Zealander who works for Agence France-Presse, were captured Nov. 8 while covering a battle between Hezb-e-Islami and President Burhanuddin Rabbani’s militia near the town of Tagab, 40 miles northeast of Kabul.
Jennings suffered a shrapnel wound to his left foot during the fighting, which left him and White, who was aiding him, unable to flee a gang of teen-agers. Their captors “kicked and punched them,” accused them of being spies and took their cameras, binoculars, eyeglasses, $700 from Jennings and his blood- stained left boot, Jennings wrote in an AP account.
Their treatment improved after one of the guerrillas, who assumed they were spies, recognized White as a journalist, Jennings said.
On Nov. 13, Kashmir Khan, a guerrilla commander, told the AP another commander in his unit was holding the journalists somewhere in the Tagab region, but that Khan was “too busy fighting” to look for them.
Heavy fighting in the Tagab region outside the Kabul delayed the release of the journalists, stated Qariubur Saeed, a spokesman for the Hezb-e-Islami group to the AP. The reporters were with 28 Afghans captured at the time and were not “intentionally” detained, stated Hezb-e- Islami officials on Nov. 12.
Hekmatyar apologized for the delay and attributed it to “communication problems” with front-line commanders, Jennings said.
Fractious guerrilla groups in Afghanistan overthrew the communist government installed by the former Soviet Union last year. About 10,000 people have been killed in an 18-month struggle for control of the Kabul, the Washington Post reported.
Jennings, a native of Oakton, Va., and fluent in Farsi, has been in Afghanistan for the AP since 1991 and lives in Kabul. White has been working there for more than a year.