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Saturday, 3 November, 2001, 20:26 GMT
Taleban free French reporter
Taleban fighters near Jalalabad
Mr Peyrard was arrested by the Taleban near Jalalabad
The Taleban authorities have released French journalist Michel Peyrard, who entered Afghanistan illegally last month, disguised as a woman.

Mr Peyrard, who works for Paris Match magazine, was handed over to French diplomats on the Pakistani border.

Michel Peyrard, pictured in 1988
Michel Peyrard said he knew he might be arrested
"I was not tortured," he told reporters. "They were treating me fairly and they gave me food. They questioned me about my profession. This morning they told me: 'You are going home'."

His two Pakistani companions - Mohammad Arfan and Mukram Khan - were also expected to be released, but at the last minute they were ordered back to the Afghan city of Jalalabad, Mr Peyrard said.

A Taleban official who escorted Mr Peyrard to the Torkham border crossing in North West Frontier Province said the two Pakistanis would be released on Sunday.

Able to work

"I feel fine, I feel fine. To tell you the truth I wasn't expecting to be released so soon," Mr Peyrard said.

[The Taleban] believe they have defeated the United States insofar as the ground attack which they say they were expecting has not materialised

Michel Peyrard

"Only this morning we had rather bad news, that the report of the Taleban secret services investigators had concluded that I was a spy, and I thought I might be transferred to Kabul. So I'm very relieved.

"I was actually able to work, to conduct interviews. There are a lot of people detained in... Jalalabad, at present, and I was able to interview them at leisure."

About the Taleban, he said: "They are extremely calm. They believe they have defeated the United States in so far as the ground attack which, they say, they were expecting, has not materialised. For them this is proof of victory."

Not a spy

Earlier, the Taleban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, said an investigation had "revealed that the arrested Frenchman was not a spy but a journalist" and "on this basis the Afghan Government has decided to release him".

The reporter entered Afghanistan illegally on 9 October with the two Pakistani journalists, to report on the US bombing.

Afghanistan's ruling Taleban banned foreign journalists from entering the country after the crisis with America erupted following the attacks on New York and Washington.

British journalist Yvonne Ridley was freed on 8 October after being held captive by the Taleban for 10 days.

The BBC's Rahimullah Yusufzia
talked to Michel Peyrard in the presence of the Taleban governor
See also:

10 Oct 01 | South Asia
Taleban charge three with spying
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