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Last Updated: Friday, 10 June, 2005, 05:31 GMT 06:31 UK
Italy hostage released in Kabul
Video grab of Cantoni after her release
Clementina Cantoni seen in this video image after her release
Italian aid worker Clementina Cantoni has been freed nearly a month after being taken hostage in Afghanistan, the Afghan interior ministry has said.

She is said to be in good health and is expected to return home to Italy later on Friday.

Ms Cantoni, who works for Care International, was abducted by gunmen who forced her out of her car.

Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said that no concessions had been made to the kidnappers.

Ms Cantoni has been in Afghanistan since September 2003 and was in charge of a programme supporting more than 10,000 widows and their children.

Widows helped by her project staged demonstrations in the capital calling for her release.

We did not pay any ransom
Ali Ahmad Jalali
Afghan Interior Minister

And earlier on Thursday, hundreds of schoolgirls in the Afghan capital, Kabul, handed out nearly 3,000 stickers calling for Ms Cantoni to be freed.


Ms Cantoni was abducted in central Kabul on 16 May.

Announcing her release, an interior ministry spokesman said he was "happy to say that Clementina is well".

"She is in good health given the 24 day ordeal she went through," Lutfulla Mashal told reporters.

Germana, left, and Fabio Cantoni, the parents of Clementina Cantoni in Milan
Her parents appeared on their apartment balcony after the news

He said the aid worker had spoken to her mother on the phone.

In his flat in Milan, Ms Cantoni's father appeared on the balcony to say: "My daughter, I greet you", Italian news agency Ansa reported. And in Luxembourg Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said it was an "enormous relief".

Afghan officials had said a criminal gang was responsible rather than Islamic militants.

In a hastily arranged news conference, Minister Jalali said Ms Cantoni's release was "a result of the hard work of the police and the nation".

"The policy of the Afghan government is not to deal with the hostage-takers. We did not pay any ransom," he said.

The Afghan government had criticised the Italian embassy in Kabul for trying to negotiate Ms Cantoni's release with her kidnappers.

Hear more about the aid worker's kidnap ordeal

Kidnapped Italian shown in video
29 May 05 |  South Asia
Italy-Afghanistan kidnap dispute
26 May 05 |  South Asia
Clementina Cantoni: A force for good
19 May 05 |  South Asia
Abducted Italian 'makes contact'
18 May 05 |  South Asia

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