The Sunday Times' experienced war correspondent Jon Swain claims today that a ransom demand was a factor in the decision to launch a military action to free New York Times journalist Stephen Farrell after he and his Afghan assistant Sultan Munadi were kidnapped by the Taliban.
Swain writes: "The overriding purpose of the mission was to save the two hostages’ lives, but a subsidiary reason for the operation was to scupper ransom negotiations. Intercepted telephone conversations revealed that the Taliban were demanding a large ransom for Farrell.
"If paid, any ransom would swell Taliban coffers, enabling them to buy more weapons to kill British and other Nato troops. Past ransom demands in the region have led to huge payments.
"The case of David Rohde, another New York Times correspondent who was kidnapped last year, is of particular note. The newspaper denies it paid a ransom for his release but, according to authoritative sources in the region, the Taliban received up to $9m (£5.4m) for freeing him."
In a separate article, Swain writes about how the killing of Sultan Munadi in the rescue attempt brought back painful memories for him of an ambush in East Timor 10 years ago when his assistant was murdered and his driver blinded.