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Ipswich journo heads back to Afghanistan

PUBLISHED: 21:40 21 June 2002 | UPDATED: 12:08 03 March 2010

A FRIEND of the Taliban's worst enemy, she has already risked her life visiting war-ravaged Afghanistan.

Now an adventurous award-winning journalist from Ipswich is already planning her second trip to Afghanistan.

A FRIEND of the Taliban's worst enemy, she has already risked her life visiting war-ravaged Afghanistan.

Now an adventurous award-winning journalist from Ipswich is already planning her second trip to Afghanistan.

Intrepid Joanna Langley, 27, a former pupil of St Alban's High School, is currently based in Dubai in the Middle East and covered the plight of women in the wartorn country.

Deputy editor of Arabian Woman, she also maintains a home in Swinton Close, Ipswich, and returns every summer.

She travelled to Afghanistan last month to follow the progress of women following the fall of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime.

Joanna's passion for the terror-ravaged country began after she met and befriended an Afghan war hero who defended his country against Russian invaders in the 1980s.

Commander Abdul Haq, a prominent businessman based in Dubai, was later caught and executed by the Taliban last October after he returned to Afghanistan on a peace mission.

"I've wanted to travel to Afghanistan ever since I met Commander Abdul Haq. He was a very interesting man who had many wonderful stories to tell about his country. He had been wounded 17 times, and had lost a foot from a land mine – but he loved his people and made the effort to create peace, even though he knew his mission was suicidal."

"I found out about his death while watching the news on BBC – it was terribly sad. I also though at that point I'd never have the chance to go to his country."

Several months were to pass before Joanna began thinking about visiting Afghanistan.

"I kept up to date with all the progress going on and suddenly made the decision to go two months ago. I decided that it was now or never. My family tried to dissuade me – but as a journalist, I knew I had to got event though there was a risk because I had to see the situation for myself."

Luckily, everything went to plan, and after 10 days in the country, Joanna returned home safely with plenty of top scoops.

"I was very lucky because I travelled through Afghanistan with Commander Abdul Haq's family and friends. They looked after me extremely well, and I had armed bodyguards 24 hours a day. I visited hospitals, schools, interviewed ministers, lived with a warlord for five days and learned how to fire a Kalashnikov. It was an amazing experience."

Although a date has not yet been fixed for the return journey, Joanna is adamant that it will happen soon.

"Afghanistan is a stunningly beautiful country and the people are wonderful. When you watch reports on the news, you simply don't get a proper impression of the place at all. This time I am planning to stay a month so it will need a little organisation – but I'm hoping to get there again before Christmas."

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