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Wednesday, 10 October, 2001, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Freed reporter 'glad to be back'
Ridley arrives at Heathrow airport
Ms Ridley arrived at Heathrow on Wednesday afternoon
British journalist Yvonne Ridley has flown back to the UK after being released by the Taleban in Afghanistan.

Ms Ridley, who works for the Sunday Express, arrived at Heathrow Airport early on Wednesday afternoon on an Emirates Airlines flight from Dubai.

Surrounded by airline officials, a newspaper executive and photographers, she said: "I'm glad to be back."

She was then driven off to her home in Durham, where a Sunday Express spokeswoman said she would be reunited with her nine-year-old daughter and the rest of her family.

Ms Ridley, 43, spent 11 days as a prisoner of the Taleban after she was seized in Afghanistan near Jalalabad in the east of the country.

I think I'm so lucky as well in that she has had so many prayers said for her

Joyce Ridley

A spokesman for Express newspapers said Ms Ridley will probably give a press conference on Friday.

Sister Gillian Jefferson said the ordeal had brought the family together.

"I certainly wouldn't like her to go back - she is a precious sister and this has been a tremendous ordeal.

Nightmare over

"Thank goodness the nightmare is over - we hope we'll never go through anything like this again."

Ms Ridley's mother Joyce said nine-year-old Daisy had screamed with delight at hearing the news of her mother's release.

Thank goodness the nightmare is over - we hope we'll never go through anything like this again

Gillian Jefferson
Ms Ridley's sister

Mrs Ridley said she had always maintained the Taleban would keep their word and release her daughter.

"I think I'm so lucky as well in that she has had so many prayers said for her," she said.

But shortly after Ms Ridley was released, a French journalist was arrested in Afghanistan after secretly entering the country disguised as a woman.

Michel Peyrard, who works for the weekly Paris Match, has been placed under investigation for spying.

'Spying' fears

Ms Ridley was seized after she crossed from Pakistan into eastern Afghanistan without a visa, accompanied by two Afghan guides.

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

According to the Sunday Express, Ms Ridley had entered the country to cover the humanitarian crisis and find out "what ordinary Afghans were thinking".

There has been no word on the fate of the guides.

The BBC's Jill McGivering
"A journalistic mission that went horribly wrong"
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
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