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  • Hostages Position Known Thanks to UAVs
    Posted by Christina Mackenzie 5:45 PM on Jul 01, 2011

    Images taken by unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) enabled the French government, secret services and armed forces to pinpoint the place where two French television journalists were being held hostage in Afghanistan but they judged a commando-type rescue too dangerous. The two men and their interpreter were released on June 29 after 547 days.

    Hervé Ghesquière, a reporter, and Stéphane Taponier, a cameraman, together with interpreter Rez Din, were kidnapped on Dec. 30, 2009 in the village of Omar-Kheil, in the province of Kapisa north of Kabul where the French army is deployed.

    The two men said in a TV interview on June 30 that they could hear the UAVs “which make the Taliban extremely nervous because they hate the idea that they are being filmed and photographed.” But they said, it made them happy to hear the characteristic noise of a UAV because they thought they were probably being observed by friendly forces.

    Apparently the US army quickly discovered the place where the journalists were being held when they heard telephone conversations between the insurgents about the two Frenchmen (radio or telephone communications in Afghanistan are frequently heard in the United States too!) Observations made by UAVs then enabled the kidnappers' position to be established and the group to be followed as they moved towards the centre of Kapisa province. The French anti-terrorist unit could see the two journalists stretching their legs during short walks, could see when they were being moved to different houses and could even get a fairly accurate idea of their state of physical and mental health and the conditions they were being held in.

    But after Linda Norgrove, a British hostage, was killed by the Taliban on Oct. 8, 2010 during a US special forces rescue mission, the French government refused to allow a similar rescue operation to be mounted.

    The two journalists were released after talks between the French and Afghan governments and the insurgents. The French foreign minister says no ransom was paid and very little has been revealed about the negotiations given that there are still nine other French people being held hostage in different parts of the world.

    Tags: ar99, France, UAV, unmanned

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