Taliban in talks to free teacher

Athanasios Lerounis, a Greek volunteer teacher abducted from his home in northwestern Pakistan early last month, is alive and well and negotiations for his release are moving forward, the local Chitral Times has reported. A delegation of elders from Pakistan’s Bumburet Valley who visited Afghanistan for talks with the Greek teacher’s Taliban kidnappers announced that Lerounis is safe and that his abductors have dropped their demand for a ransom of 2 million dollars, the newspaper said. However, the kidnappers have reportedly said they will only release the teacher if Pakistani authorities approve the release of three Afghan Taliban leaders, the elders learned. Four of the six-member delegation have remained in the mountainous Afghan province of Nuristan, where Lerounis is being held captive, to continue negotiations with the Taliban kidnappers while the other two have returned to Pakistan, the report added. Lerounis has been working as a volunteer teacher for a humanitarian organization in Pakistan since 1995.