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Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 01:02 GMT 02:02 UK
Freed reporter tells of ordeal
Yvonne Ridley on her release
Yvonne Ridley was released after being held for 11 days
Freed British journalist Yvonne Ridley has told how she went on hunger strike after being captured by the Taleban.

The Sunday Express reporter took the drastic action after her request to make a phone call was refused.

And she has also described how during her 11 days of captivity she had feared that she would "disappear."

Speaking only hours after being released by the Taleban regime to Pakistan, she told the Daily Express: "The only way I could exercise any right - because as a prisoner I had no rights - was by not eating and that really upset them, which encouraged me."

Daily Express
Express Journalist Yvonne Ridley recounts her 'Taleban hell'
She was eventually separated from other female prisoners and described her cell as "squalid" despite it being cleaned of cockroaches and scorpions.

Her comments came just hours after she was handed over at the Torkhum border crossing at the foot of the Khyber Pass on Monday afternoon.

She said one of her lowest moments was missing her daughter Daisy's birthday.

But for the most part she said she just felt angry as her captors had earlier promised her that she would be going home, before putting her in jail in Kabul.

"I didn't realise I was free until I actually sat down with a Pakistani official and had a cup of tea," she said.

Secret diary

While being held captive she kept a secret diary using the inside of a box for a toothpaste tube and the inside of a soap wrapper.

They tried to break me mentally by asking the same questions time and time again

Yvonne Ridley
When Sunday's air attacks were launched she said men had come into her cell and taken a rocket-propelled grenade from under her bed.

"I was never physically hurt in any way.

"They tried to break me mentally by asking the same questions time and time again, day after day, sometimes until 9 o'clock at night," she told the paper.

In a statement released earlier by Express Newspapers, Ms Ridley said was "desperate" to get home to see her daughter.

There had been fears for her well-being after the Allies launched the missile attacks on Taleban and al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan on Sunday.

But her release was confirmed on Monday by the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said she had been handed over to Pakistani officials.

Trial fears

Ms Ridley, 43, was seized after she crossed from Pakistan into eastern Afghanistan without a visa.

There were fears that she could be put on trial for entering the country illegally or even spying.

On Monday Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he was delighted she had been freed and could now be reunited with her family.

Yvonne's mother Joyce Ridley
Yvonne's mother Joyce Ridley: "Why couldn't they have waited?"
"I know what a great relief this must be for them, especially at such a difficult and uncertain time," he said.

Ms Ridley's mother Joyce, of West Pelton, County Durham, welcomed the news.

"We have gone from the depths of despair to utter elation," she told the Express.

Earlier she had criticised the UK and US Governments for going ahead with missile attacks on targets in Afghanistan without knowing if her daughter was safe.

"The British Government said she was coming home. Why then could they not delay the bombing for a few hours? I just cannot accept that."

According to the Sunday Express, Ms Ridley had entered the country to cover the humanitarian crisis there.

Yvonne Ridley's mother, Joyce
comments on her daughter's release
The BBC's George Eykyn
"She seemed tired but in good spirits"

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See also:

29 Sep 01 | UK
Profile: Yvonne Ridley
29 Sep 01 | South Asia
Diplomats seek to free reporter
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