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Russia30 October 2003

An AFP correspondent kidnapped in Ingushetia - Journalists who are former hostages call for his release

We, the undersigned, were taken hostage in Lebanon, Philippines or Colombia, so we know the feeling of abandonment and isolation, the fear that we will never see our loved ones again, the constant uncertainty about what awaits us. We are therefore extremely concerned about the fate of our colleague, Ali Astamirov, Agence France-Presse correspondent in Chechnya and Ingushetia, who was abducted on 4 July by a group of armed men in the village of Altievo, 3 km from Nazran, the main city in Ingushetia, in front of fellow journalists.

Aged 34, Chechen and the father of two children, Ali had been working for AFP for a year. Previously, he worked for a privately-owned radio station in Grozny and, from 1998 to 1 October 1999 (the date of the start of military operations), for the Chechen branch of the then independent Russian television station NTV. In the months prior to his abduction, he received anonymous threats and changed his place of residence out of concern for his security.

The investigators in charge of the case in Moscow and the Nazran prosecutor’s office in Ingushetia have learned nothing of any significance. Three weeks after the kidnapping, Ali’s family felt sure he was still alive, but today they are no longer so sure. If no one knows the identity of his abductors, one thing is nonetheless certain: a journalist who was covering a terrible war and its accompanying atrocities has today been silenced.

We call on Ali Astamirov’s abductors to make themselves known and to release him as soon as possible. We also call on President Putin to do everything possible to find Ali and obtain his release without putting his life in danger.

Roger Auque, journalist, hostage in Lebanon in 1987

Maryse Burgot, journalist, hostage in Jolo (Philippines) in 2000

Scott Dalton, journalist, hostage in Colombia in 2003

Jean-Jacques Le Garrec, journalist, hostage in Jolo (Philippines) in 2000

Jean-Paul Kauffmann, journalist, hostage in Lebanon from 1985 to 1988

Andreas Lorenz, journalist, hostage in Jolo (Philippines) in 2000

Roland Madura, journalist, hostage in Jolo (Philippines) in 2000

Ruth Morris, journalist, hostage in Colombia in 2003

Jean-Louis Normandin, journalist, hostage in Lebanon from 1986 to 1987

Philippe Rochot, journalist, hostage in Lebanon in 1986

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