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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 June, 2005, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Kabul denies Afghan kidnap deal
Clementina Cantoni at Rome airport
Clementina Cantoni appeared well on arrival back in Rome
The Afghan government has confirmed it freed the mother of the man suspected of kidnapping an Italian aid worker but denied it was part of any deal.

The mother of suspected kidnapper Timur Shah was released along with three other detainees, the government said.

But it said there was no deal and that five friends or relatives of Mr Shah had been arrested over the abduction.

Clementina Cantoni, now back in Rome, has spoken for the first time of her ordeal, saying she was not threatened.

Ms Cantoni reportedly identified Mr Shah as her abductor to Italian police, Italian newspapers said.

Murder

Interior ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said Mr Shah's mother and the three other released detainees had no charges against them and could have been freed earlier if the kidnapping of Ms Cantoni had not taken place.

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He said they were detained in connection with an earlier kidnapping linked to Mr Shah's gang.

Hafiz Zadran, the son of an Afghan businessman, died in his kidnappers' custody.

Three men were convicted of kidnapping and murdering him and a demand for their release by the kidnappers of Ms Cantoni was refused, Mr Mashal said.

He accused Mr Shah of kidnapping Ms Cantoni, who works for Care International, as a bargaining chip for his mother's release.

Mr Mashal told the AFP agency five friends or relatives of Mr Shah had been arrested over the abduction prior to Ms Cantoni's release.

Tied up

Italian newspapers have said that hundreds of thousands of dollars had been paid to the kidnappers, but the Afghan interior ministry denied any ransom had been handed over.

Afghan schoolgirls distributing stickers

Ms Cantoni was abducted by gunmen in Kabul on 16 May who forced her out of her car.

She had been in Afghanistan since September 2003, in charge of a programme supporting more than 10,000 widows and their children.

Back in Rome she said she had never been threatened in her three weeks of captivity.

She said the kidnap leader had told her: "Tell me what is your brother's name, because from now on I am your brother."

Ms Cantoni said there were four to six kidnappers, the Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.

She said she was tied by the ankles at night and never allowed a change of clothes but could watch TV and read English newspapers.

Ms Cantoni she had been "really moved" by the protests for her release by the widows she had worked for, which she saw on the TV.

She said: "I was in the same room for the first 10 or 12 days, always lying or sitting down. Then they made me walk back and forth... and they tried to make me do a little exercise by throwing a ball at me."

On Thursday she was taken on a 20-minute car ride and met by Afghan police.


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Watch Clementina Cantoni's emotional return home




SEE ALSO:
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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