No movement on French hostage in Afghanistan

4th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

KABUL, May 3, 2007 (AFP) - Afghanistan's Taliban rebels said Thursday they have yet to be contacted over the demands they want met to release a French man and three Afghans they are holding hostage, as the insurgents' deadline looms.

KABUL, May 3, 2007 (AFP) - Afghanistan's Taliban rebels said Thursday they have yet to be contacted over the demands they want met to release a French man and three Afghans they are holding hostage, as the insurgents' deadline looms.

"Our demands are still the same, which are the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan or the release of our prisoners," said Yousuf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban, which has been holding the aid workers for a month.

"We compiled a list of our prisoners and indirectly we sent it to the French. Unfortunately so far no-one, neither the French nor the Afghan government, has contacted us regarding the issue."

"Our deadline expires on Saturday," he said.

Ahmadi said the Taliban's leaders would decide on a course of action should there be no response to the ultimatum. In previous cases this had included beheading.

"If our demands are not met, our position is clear but of course we will wait for the decision of the leading council. The final decision will be made by the leading council after the expiration of the deadline," he said.

The four men were in "good health and have no problems," he said.

Another Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said a committee handling the issue "will decide wether they will extend the deadline or make any other decision."

The extremists -- who have beheaded several Afghan hostages, and some Turks and Indians -- released April 28 a French woman, Celine Cordelier, captured with the men in the southwestern province of Nimroz.

They then said they would give the French government another week to address their demands over the other hostages in light of the May 6 presidential election in France.

"They were and are busy in France and do not have enough time for things out of the country," Mujahid said. "Now it is for the French government to make the decision about their citizen."

The five abductees worked for French aid agency Terre d'Enfance (A World For Our Children), which appealed to the Taliban on Wednesday to show mercy.

"In freeing Celine, you showed understanding towards these volunteers, who are all committed to a humanitarian programme that helps children. We are all grateful to you.

"Our sense of relief will not be complete until Eric Damfreville and his three Afghan companions have in turn been reunited with their families," its statement said.

President Hamid Karzai said Wednesday his government was doing what it could to secure the release of the four.

"We are in close coordination with France, we are doing everything in that regard," Karzai told reporters.

His government has come in for heavy criticism after it released last month five Taliban prisoners, including high-ranking rebel commanders, in exchange for an Italian journalist the rebels had held for two weeks.

The Taliban beheaded the Italian's translator after the government refused to free two more rebels from government jails. The group's driver was also killed.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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