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Freed French Journalist Hints Ransom Paid to Taliban


France 3 television journalists Herve Ghesquiere (R) reacts after his arrival with his colleague journalist Stephane Taponier (not pictured) at Villacoublay military airport near Paris June 30, 2011.

France 3 television journalists Herve Ghesquiere (R) reacts after his arrival with his colleague journalist Stephane Taponier (not pictured) at Villacoublay military airport near Paris June 30, 2011.

A French journalist who was freed this week after being held hostage for 18 months in Afghanistan says money and prisoners may have been exchanged to secure his release from the Taliban.

France-3 television reporter Herve Ghesquiere told BBC News that officially there was no ransom, but "of course, as he put it,"it was not for chocolates."

Ghesquiere, videographer Stephane Taponier and their Afghan translator were freed Wednesday after being abducted in December 2009 while working on a story about reconstruction east of Kabul. Two Afghan journalists who were kidnapped along with them were freed earlier.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

The French government denied a ransom was paid to secure the journalists' release.

The Taliban said Thursday Ghesquiere and Taponier were freed in exchange for the release of Taliban prisoners.

The journalists returned to France Thursday in good health. They told reporters they were not beaten or mistreated by their captors, but suffered difficult living conditions.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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