Archive for Sunday, November 7, 2004

Militants holding hostages say talks postponed a day

November 7, 2004


— Militants threatening to kill three U.N. hostages said Saturday that talks with Afghan and U.N. officials had been postponed for another day.

President-elect Hamid Karzai renewed his condemnation of the abduction and received a promise from his visiting Pakistani counterpart of closer cooperation in combating terrorism.

Authorities have not confirmed any contact with Jaish-al Muslimeen, a Taliban splinter group demanding a U.N. pullout from Afghanistan and the release of Taliban prisoners.

Syed Khaled, a spokesman for the militants, initially said talks had begun Saturday at a secret location in southern Afghanistan. But he said later that an Afghan government delegation arrived too late.

"Our people thought the talks might continue late into the night, so the two sides agreed to hold them tomorrow," Khaled told The Associated Press by telephone. "We hope that the Afghan government delegation will be empowered to solve the issue quickly."

His claims could not be independently verified.

The abduction of Annetta Flanigan of Northern Ireland, Angelito Nayan of the Philippines, and Shqipe Hebibi of Kosovo was the first of foreigners in Kabul since the Taliban was ousted in 2001.

The militants released a videotape of the hostages last week, fueling concern that they are copying the tactics of their Iraqi counterparts. Still, Afghan officials suspect the little-known group had help from warlord militias or criminal gangs.

The kidnappers have repeatedly extended a deadline after which they say they will decide whether to kill the hostages. They also demand that British troops leave Afghanistan and that the United States release Muslim inmates from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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