Lerounis return home to Athens

first_imgAthanasios Lerounis has said tha he is glad to be back in Greece after enduring seven months as a captive of the Taliban in Afghanistan.“I am very happy to step on Greek soil,” a visibly thinner and emotional Lerounis told reporters at Athens International Airport on Saturday. “I wish to apologise for the turmoil and give great thanks to the people of Pakistan, the Greek government and the personal interest of the Prime Minister (George Papandreou), who acted as a human being and not as a politician,” he said. Athanassios Lerounis was abducted while based in the northern district of Chitral, where he worked as a volunteer curator of a heritage museum for several years. He was taken across the border to the Afghan province of Nuristan. His captors demanded the release of militants held by Pakistan in exchange for his freedom but officials say no militant exchange was made. “He has been released by the successful efforts of Pakistani security agencies,” Rahmatullah Wazir, the top administrative official in Chitral said. The curator was living in the Kalash valley to pursue his interest in an ancient lost tribe when he was kidnapped by armed men on September  7, 2009. The Kalash tribe have European features and still practise a pagan religion resembling that of ancient Greece. They are said to be descendants of Greek soldiers from the army of Alexander the Great, who passed through this region nearly 2,000 years ago. Mr Lerounis had been living among the Kalash since 2001. Sponsored by the Greek Government, he managed a museum which highlighted the tribe’s culture and Greek connections. Locals point out that before the kidnapping Mr Lerounis had experienced no trouble and was well liked by the locals. The Chitral district, where he was based, is widely seen as untouched by the Taliban insurgency which has ravaged the rest of the North West Frontier Province.Former Victorian ALP Parliamentarian Dimitris Dollis played an active role in negotiating the release of Lerounis.Mr Dollis served as   Ambassador at Large and personal envoy of the Greek Prime Minister in Islamabad for the release of Greek volunteer..Dolis visited Afghanistan an Pakistan three times in seven months and worked tirelessly for the release of Lerounis. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img

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