Dutch hostage returns home

Arjan Erkel, a worker for Medecines Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, who has been released by Russian security services from captivity in Dagestan (Russian Federation republic neighbouring on Chechnya), has returned to the Netherlands. His plane landed at the Rotterdam airport late on Sunday night.

His mother and other relations were meeting him at the plane. Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot was also meeting the released hostage.

Mr Erkel spent an hour and a half at the airport talking to Mr Bot and others. Then he addressed newsmen, saying the years in captivity were a hard time, however he was feeling well, although he had lost 18 kg of weight.

Mr Erkel will spend a night in Rotterdam. On Monday, he will undergo a medical examination at a hospital there. Then he will go further on to Westdorp, Zeeland province, to see his parents.

Westdorp is expected to celebrate Mr Erkel's release and homecoming.

The aid worker was kidnapped in Dagestan on August 12 2002. His whereabouts were unknown, although he was known to be alive.

Mr Erkel was released in a joint operation conducted by the Dagestanin interior ministry and the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) department for Dagestan.

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