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Ridley Said to Be Released Sunday

October 7, 2001

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ A British journalist arrested last month in Afghanistan will be released Sunday, a senior official of the ruling Taliban said.

Yvonne Ridley, 43, a reporter for the Sunday Express, was arrested south of Jalalabad last month along with two Afghans as she tried to report on conditions here following the crisis over U.S. demands to turn over terror suspect Osama bin Laden.

The Taliban said Saturday that their leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, had ordered her freed. Information Minister Qatradullah Jamal told The Associated Press she would be set free Sunday.

Jamal did not specify a time of release, and it was unclear whether Ridley would leave the country Sunday.

In London, the Sunday Express said Ridley was supposed to be traveling under an armed Taliban escort to the Khyber Pass, where she was to be handed over to Pakistani officials.

Taliban authorities had said officials were investigating Ridley on possible espionage charges. But they said she would be deported if authorities confirmed she was a journalist.

Ridley was taken first to the northeastern city of Jalalabad and then was transferred to Kabul on Saturday. There was no word on what happened to the two Afghans detained with her.

The Taliban offered Saturday to release eight aid workers charged with spreading Christianity if the United States stopped its threats to attack Afghanistan in an attempt to apprehend bin Laden.

However, the White House rejected the offer and demanded bin Laden and the aid workers be handed over unconditionally. The eight include four Germans, two Americans and two Australians working for the German-based Christian organization Shelter Now International.

They were arrested in August.

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