Kidnapped British journalist freed in Afghanistan

A British commando was killed during an operation to free a British journalist who had been kidnapped in Afghanistan.

Stephen Farrell, a reporter with the New York Times who holds dual British and Irish citizenship, was successfully released during the pre-dawn raid by Nato troops.

Military officials quoted by the Associated Press news agency in the Afghan capital, Kabul, said a commando died in the operation.

The Ministry of Defence, in London, was unable to confirm the report and refused to confirm if British Special Forces were involved in the raid.

Neither the New York Times nor Farrell’s family knew that the military operation was taking place.

Until now, the kidnapping had been kept quiet by his employer and most other news media organisations because of safety concerns.

Farrell, a former London Times Iraq correspondent, was abducted on Saturday. It was the second time he had been kidnapped.

He had previously been abducted at gunpoint by bandits in April 2004 in Iraq while on a reporting mission on the road between Fallujah and Baghdad. After being interrogated for eight hours he was released.

In August 2004, he was one of three British journalists who defied an Iraqi police warning to ‘leave the city of Najaf or die’.

Farrell, who joined the New York Times in July 2007 as a correspondent in the newspaper’s Baghdad bureau, said after his release his Afghan interpreter had been killed in the raid.

The pair were snatched as Farrell reported on the aftermath of a Nato air strike in the northern province of Kunduz.

The reporter and his interpreter, who was named by the New York Times as Sultan Munadi, had travelled to Kunduz to investigate reports of civilian deaths in the air strike on two hijacked fuel tankers.

Describing the moment his rescuers arrived, Farrell told the New York Times: “We were all in a room, the Talibs all ran, it was obviously a raid.

“We thought they would kill us. We thought ‘should we go out?’ There were bullets all around us. I could hear British and Afghan voices.”

He said Munadi moved forward, shouting: “Journalist! Journalist!” but dropped in a hail of bullets. Farrell said he dived into a ditch and after a minute or two heard more British voices.

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