The Taliban threatened to begin killing 23 South Korean hostages Monday evening if the government doesn’t free insurgents held in prison. The demands came as the U.S.-led coalition reported killing some 50 militants in southern Afghanistan’s poppy-growing heartland.
Khail Mohammad Husseini, a lawmaker from Ghazni province, where the Koreans are being held, said provincial leaders tried to meet with the kidnappers Monday but that they didn’t show. He said the Taliban increased their demands by telephone, saying all militant prisoners in Ghazni now had to be released.
Qari Yousef Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the militia, disputed that report, saying the Taliban were still demanding the release of 23 prisoners.
“If the government won’t accept these conditions, then it’s difficult for the Taliban to provide security for these hostages, to provide health facilities and food,” Ahmadi told The Associated Press by satellite phone. “The Taliban won’t have any option but to kill the hostages.”
Vinnie at The Jawa Report wonders: “Anyone have any ideas why they’d be so bold to use a traceable satellite phone and talk to the AP rather than the usual posting on jihadi websites and using personal couriers to Al Jazeera?”
And an update on the German hostages:
A German hostage kidnapped in Afghanistan has died while a second is still thought to be alive, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
“We have to assume at this point that one of the hostages has died in captivity,” Steinmeier told reporters in Berlin today. After analyzing all the information from the region, it appears that the hostage died of a heart attack and was not murdered, he said.
“We will do everything possible to save the life of the second hostage,” he said, noting that at least 18 South Koreans are also being held captive in Afghanistan after going missing on July 19.
Steinmeier was responding to reports that Taliban insurgents had captured and killed the two Germans after the Afghan and German governments failed to make contact for negotiations. Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi said yesterday that the two would be killed unless Germany withdraws its military forces from Afghanistan, news agency Deutsche Presse- Agentur reported.
The two Germans, who worked for a company in the capital Kabul, went missing in Wardag province, west of the capital Kabul on July 18, according to the Foreign Ministry. Both were engineers, news magazine Der Spiegel reported today. The dead man came from the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and suffered from diabetes, Spiegel said.
Merkel is refusing to cave:
The German government, which has deployed more than 3,000 troops in Afghanistan to help combat the Taliban, said last month that its military and humanitarian involvement in the country was causing a greater terrorism threat both in Afghanistan and at home. About 500 German civilian aid workers are also in Afghanistan.
Chancellor Angela Merkel postponed her “summer interview” with ARD television until tomorrow “because of the turn of events in Afghanistan,” ARD said in an e-mailed statement. Steinmeier said he is in regular contact with Merkel over the kidnappings.
Merkel said on July 18 that the country’s military forces should remain in Afghanistan and that lawmakers must back an extension of the parliamentary mandates for the troop deployment. A parliamentary vote is due some time in October.