Page last updated at 11:15 GMT, Thursday, 8 April 2010 12:15 UK

Kidnapped Greek curator is freed by Taliban

By Dilawar Khan Wazir
BBC News, Peshawar

Athanassios Lerounis
Mr Lerounis has been hailed as a friend of the Kalash people

A Greek national kidnapped by the Taliban eight months ago in Pakistan has been released, officials say.

Athanassios Lerounis was abducted while based in the northern district of Chitral, where he worked as the curator of a heritage museum for several years.

He was taken across the border to the Afghan province of Nuristan.

His captors demanded the release of militants held by Pakistan in exchange for his freedom but officials say no militant exchange was made.

"He has been released by the successful efforts of Pakistani security agencies," Rahmatullah Wazir, the top administrative official in Chitral, told the BBC.

The curator was living in the Kalash valley to pursue his interest in an ancient "lost tribe" when he was kidnapped by armed men on 7 September 2009.

The Kalash tribe have European features and still practise a pagan religion resembling that of ancient Greece.

They are said to be descendants of Greek soldiers from the army of Alexander the Great, who passed through this region nearly 2,000 years ago.

Mr Lerounis had been living among the Kalash since 2001. Sponsored by the Greek government, he managed a museum which highlighted the tribe's culture and Greek connections.

Locals point out that before the kidnapping Mr Lerounis had experienced no trouble and was well liked by the locals.

The Chitral district, where he was based, is widely seen as untouched by the Taliban insurgency which has ravaged the rest of the North West Frontier Province.

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