New York Times reporter rescued from Taliban

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH in Boston. Special Forces rescued a kidnapped western journalist in northern Afghanistan last night. Stephen Farrell of the New York Times was seized by the Taliban last Saturday. He'd been visiting the site of a controversial NATO air strike in northern Afghanistan on two captured fuel trucks. Farrell was rescued during a fierce firefight but his Afghan colleague Sultan Munadi was killed and it's not clear who fired the shots but Munadi was reportedly killed while running toward British commandos. A British soldier also died. Pamela Constable is a Kabul correspondent for the Washington Post. She says the whole incident has angered Afghan journalists.

PAMELA CONSTABLE: The Afghan journalists are extremely upset and many of them gathered this afternoon in Kabul to receive the body of Sultan Munadi when it was returned. And after that they had a gathering and a meeting to show their solidarity and concern for him and his family and a lot of strong feelings were expressed about what people said was a double standard or a concern that less care is taken for Afghans than for foreigners.

WERMAN: It's deeply tragic � Sultan Munadi and his death. He was just back in Afghanistan on vacation from his studies in Germany. Did you know him?

CONSTABLE: Yes. In fact we all knew him. He was someone who would work with the New York Times. Ever since 2001 he had been involved in all of their coverage of the fall of the Taliban. He had gotten married several years ago and had a wife and two young sons � two young children in any case. And as you said had just returned here on vacation and the New York Times sort of temporarily rehired him because there was so much news here with the elections and other issues. So he'd only been back at work for something like three weeks when this happened.

WERMAN: It's been many months since the New York Times' David Rohde was freed from a kidnapping on the Afghan-Pakistani border. Is there something wrong with the New York Times procedures?

CONSTABLE: I don't think so. I mean I think the two cases are very difficult to compare. You know when David Rohde was kidnapped he was actually not working for the New York Times. He was actually working on a book. In this case the New York Times, a foreign journalist who was kidnapped, had been here only a few weeks. He was familiar with the country but he hadn't been here in a long time so it may be that he was less aware of just how dangerous the situation was. As far as I know his employers, his office manager, the people here were people who would take a great deal of precautions before sending someone out into a dangerous part of the country. But it's my understanding that he essentially decided to go on his own and took risks that perhaps his managers might not have wanted him to take.

WERMAN: And what are you doing Pamela to tighten up your own operating procedures? I mean would you have gone up to where these fuel tankers were stranded in the river bed?

CONSTABLE: No I would not. I mean I guess just sort of the way to put this is that you know I've been working here a long time and the decisions that I make about where to go and what to do have been shrinking gradually. And basically I've just, you know very, very much sort of rationed it down my own you know sort of offensive of what is safe to do. I think it's really important that Afghans know that the foreigners who work here, like us, care a great deal about them and do not take their lives lightly at all and do not feel that our lives are worth more than theirs. We are as upset about the death of Sultan as anyone else although we're very relieved that Steve has been freed that relief is very much tempered by what I would assume and believe is a universal sense of extreme sadness and regret over Sultan's death and the death of any Afghan journalist who is doing exactly what we are trying to do here � which is cover the news. And we just hope that this does not happen again.

WERMAN: Pamela Constable with the Washington Post in Kabul. Thank you.

CONSTABLE: You're very welcome.