The commander comes into the mud hut where we have been sleeping. He is beaming. "You are free, fly away!" He mimes an airplane taking off. "You're leaving in two hours. Get ready."
My six guards burst in. They shake my hand and slap me on the back. They hurl themselves at the padlock of my chains. The keys went missing in the desert. They take it in turns, trying to break it. I just watch.
My translator Ajmal's face is a picture of misery. Too many times we have been disappointed, then I scream at him saying that he's the one who is to blame.
But there is no reason why I should be angry with him. We were sold. His contact promised us an interview with a Taliban leader. It didn't happen. Perhaps the contact sold us as spies to the chief of one of the Taliban's two factions.
It wasn't an abduction, it was torture - psychological and physical, religious and political, existential; 15 days that have marked me like 15 years. Inside and out. In my depths, in my subconscious. I stop the commander and say, "Let's talk man-to-man: you condemned me in the desert, before cutting off the head of that poor guy, and now you're letting me go. Do you think I'm a spy or a journalist?" He looks at me fixedly. He's not smiling any more. "A journalist," he replies. "No problem. You're free."
... I decided to go south, to Kandahar and then to Lashkhar Gah because this is where the Taliban are in charge and here you can touch the reality that others only talk about. This has always been my way of working: to see with my own eyes, to listen, to record and then to relate.
My Afghan colleague said that everything had been set up, that an interview was fixed for 11 o'clock.
We drive 1km out of Lashkar Gah with our driver and pick up a youth. He is wearing the traditional scarf that comes down over his eyes. I greet him, he doesn't respond. He indicates the road to take, a road of stones and gravel that meanders into the countryside.
We drive for 1km then stop. Three black motorcycles appear, carrying three boys dressed like Taliban with black turbans and grey robes. They are armed and block our path. They tell my companions to get out and they tie their hands behind their backs. They open my door and look at me. They make me get out and take everything we have - money, passport, documents, computer, watch, telephones.
I try to tell myself it's just a misunderstanding. They jab me with their guns. They tie my hands and put a blindfold over my eyes.
I have a terrible attack of claustrophobia - I've got to see the light. I manage to tear off the blindfold. I am struck on the back with the butt of a Kalashnikov. I fall to the ground. On my knees, I get another blow on my head. My blood soaks the blindfold on my eyes.
I end up with the others in a mud hut. They are all there, some 10 of them, they give us tea and tell us that we are under arrest for illegal entry into Taliban territory. …