A Greek man who has lived for years in northern Pakistan is free and in good condition seven months after being kidnapped by suspected Afghan Taliban, officials said on Thursday.
Athanasios Lerounis ran a welfare centre and school in Chitral district, and has lived in northern Pakistan since the mid-1990s. He was kidnapped by some 30 gunmen believed to be from neighbouring Afghanistan in a September encounter that killed a security guard.
Greece’s ambassador in Islamabad, Petros Mavroidis, said Mr. Lerounis was freed on Wednesday but was still with Pakistani authorities in Chitral. He was expected to reach the Pakistan capital later Thursday, Mr. Mavroidis said, adding that he had no other details.
Exactly how or where Mr. Lerounis, who police said is in his 50s, was freed was unclear.
A Pakistan government official, Rehmatallah Wazir, said months of negotiations among tribal elders, security agencies and Afghan Taliban were involved. He also said security forces “rescued” Mr. Lerounis, but wouldn’t describe what he meant by that.
The Greek had been held at one point in Afghanistan’s Nooristan province, but now “he is with us. He is safe and in good health,” Mr. Wazir told The Associated Press via phone.
The kidnappers wanted a ransom for the man, but none was paid, Mr. Wazir said.
Mr. Wazir also said earlier reports that a Pakistan servant had been kidnapped along with Mr. Lerounis in the Bamboret area were incorrect.
Kidnappings for ransom have soared in Pakistan, where the law and order situation has frayed due to the rising militant threat. Although most kidnappings are of Pakistanis and are carried out by regular criminal gangs, some are believed to help fund militant groups.
Today at lunch time the Greek teacher was turned over to the Pakistan authorities of the Greek embassy in Islamabad and few minutes later he spoke on the phone to the Prime Minister George Papandreou. Tanasis Lerounis arrived in the Greek embassy in a military helicopter from the Tsitral region in northern Pakistan and within the next two days he will return to Athens. His personal request is not to give any official statements at his arrival at home.
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