Soldiers from the U.S. Army First Battalion, 26th Infantry return to their base Camp Restrepo in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan's Kunar Province on Friday May 8, 2009. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) — The British journalist recently freed in a NATO military operation described his Taliban hostage-takers as “hopelessly inept,” and praised his Afghan colleague who died in the rescue.
New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell described his four days in captivity in a blog on the newspaper’s Web site, posted late Wednesday just hours after he was freed.
Taliban militants kidnapped Farrell and Afghan journalist, Sultan Munadi, on Saturday. During a pre-dawn raid Wednesday, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force plucked Farrell to safety, but did not retrieve the body of Munadi, who died during a fierce firefight between troops and Taliban militants. A British commando was also killed, as were a woman and child.
There has been criticism about the rescue operation as well as the initial decision to go into the region which Farrell points out in his blog, “was becoming more troubled by insurgents.”
International troops, including British forces, have expressed their unhappiness about having to extract a Western journalist from the area, a Western military source in Kabul told CNN. Meanwhile, NATO has come under fire from a coalition of Afghan journalists working for foreign news outlets who called the pre-dawn raid “reckless and double-standard behavior.”
The Media Club of Afghanistan issued a statement Thursday saying it “holds the international forces responsible for the death of Mr. Munadi because they resorted in military action before exhausting other nonviolent means.”
“There is no justification for the international forces to rescue their own national, and retrieve the dead body of their own soldier killed in action, but leave behind the dead body of Sultan Munadi in the area. The MCA deems this action as inhumane.”
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown intends to send a “private” letter of condolences to Munadi’s family, a spokeswoman for his office told CNN. In his first-hand account of the kidnapping, Farrell praised Munadi for “trying to protect me up to the last minute.”
The two had gone from Kabul to the northern Afghan city of Kunduz on Friday to investigate reports of a NATO airstrike in a Taliban-controlled area. Farrell said he and his colleagues believed the attack, which destroyed two tankers, would be “a major controversy involving allegations of civilian deaths against NATO claims that the dead were Taliban.”
He said they took precautions, including waiting until the next day to drive along the main highway in daylight. While they were interviewing locals about what happened along the riverbank, Farrell said “a crowd began to gather, time passed, and we grew nervous.”
“I do not know how long we were there, but it was uncomfortably long,” he said. “I am comfortable with the decision to go to the riverbank, but fear we spent too long there.”
All of a sudden, some of the villagers shouted, “Taliban” and their driver fled with the keys, he said. Farrell and Munadi tried to escape too, but they were captured.