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Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Wednesday, 17 June 2009 14:34 UK

Al-Jazeera Afghan staff set free

Qais Azimy (left) and and Hameedullah Shah
Al Jazeera had no contact with the pair after they were detained

Two journalists for the Arabic TV network al-Jazeera have been freed two three days after being arrested by Afghan intelligence agents.

The broadcaster had not been able to contact Qais Azimy and Hameedullah Shah since they were detained on Sunday.

But al-Jazeera now says the two men - Afghan producers for its English and Arabic channels - have been freed.

They were held after airing a report from northern Afghanistan which showed Mr Azimy meeting Taliban fighters.

In the report, produced by Mr Azimy, was broadcast on 11 June. It showed him in Kunduz province, close to the border with Tajikistan, where which he met Taliban fighters.

Al-Jazeera say the men were being held without charge and no information exists as to why they were arrested.

A BBC correspondent in Kabul says the arrests were widely publicised, and was a major story as President Hamid Karzai returned to Afghanistana after an official visit to Russia.

'Fake material'

"We don't know what they are charged with. We don't know when they might be released. We know absolutely nothing," al-Jazeera's Kabul correspondent David Chater said before their release.

"Intelligence forces that are holding our two producers... accuse us of producing something that is unbalanced, with no government representative.

"That is clearly untrue... They also accuse us of shooting essentially what is fake material, staged action from the Taliban... We did not."

Al-Jazeera said that Afghan authorities asked for a copy of a TV report the pair made two days before their detention.

Mr Chater insisted that the al-Jazeera report was not biased and that the journalists interviewed the commander of the German Nato forces in Kunduz to ensure it was balanced.

"It would appear that we are suffering from the fact that we are delivering an uncomfortable and unpalatable truth in our messages," he said.

"So that means, once again, that somebody, somewhere in Kabul and in the government is trying to shoot the messenger."

The TV channel says that it in addition to lobbying the government, it has also approached the UN and Nato forces in Afghanistan to see if they can help secure the release of the pair.



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