Taliban demands ransom for Greek volunteer

The Taliban has demanded two million dollars, as well as the release of three of its leaders, for the safe return of Greek national Athanasios Lerounis, reports the Greek Kathimerini on September 22.
The volunteer teacher was snatched from his home in northwestern Pakistan on September 14, “selflessly serving the people of Kalash” the Pakistani News International had reported on September 15 2009.
Taliban representatives detaining Lerounis said that the volunteer was “safe and sound”, Kathimerini reported. “I am living with a group of Taliban. They are very hospitable and do their best for my well-being and security,” one extract reads from Lerounis’ diary released by the Taliban.
Lerounis had been working as a volunteer teacher for a humanitarian organisation in Pakistan since 1995. His abduction, however, has caused a shock wave of discontent both in Pakistan and in Greece, home to a large Pakistani community in Athens.
A Pakistani friend of the kidnapped Greek teacher told the Pakistani News International that “there are more than 80 000 Pakistanis in Greece and almost half of them were staying there illegally in the hope of entering other European countries”.
“The Greek people are very nationalistic. They would be upset that a Greek volunteer working for the welfare of the Kalash people in Pakistan was kidnapped. Their anger would be directed against Pakistan and Pakistanis in case Prof Athanasios came to any harm,” he said.
Athen’s mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, has submitted to the Pakistani ambassador in Greece a letter of protest, demanding his immediate release and safe return.
The Greek Teachers’ Association, of which Prof Athanasios was a member and which had done some pioneering work in Chitral for the welfare of the Kalash people, has also expressed deep concern over his kidnapping.


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