‘Afghanistan hostages to be killed in 3 days unless UN evacuates’
* UN appeals to militants to release foreign hostages
KABUL: Militants holding three UN workers hostage set a three-day deadline on Sunday for foreign troops and the United Nations to leave Afghanistan, saying they would kill the hostages otherwise.
The demands were read out to AFP shortly before the Arabic television channel Al Jazeera broadcast a video showing the three UN employees, who were kidnapped at gunpoint in Kabul on Thursday.
The hostages’ governments will “witness the death of their nationals in three days” unless four demands are met, said Mullah Mohammad Ishaq, spokesman for the breakaway Taliban group Jaishul Muslimeen. “First, we want the UN to leave Afghanistan and we want them to condemn the attacks and invasion of Afghanistan by foreign forces,” he said.
“Second, we want all those Afghans who have been arrested in Afghanistan and held in foreign prisons to be released immediately.
“Number three, we want Britain and Kosovo to withdraw their forces immediately from Afghanistan or to witness the deaths of their nationals in three days. And fourth, we want the Philippines to condemn the invasion of foreign forces in Afghanistan and to declare it illegal. “A couple of hours ago, we gave videotapes to Al Jazeera and Rahimullah Yusufzai, which will prove that we have the hostages and they are alive up till now,” he said, referring to a reporter based in northwest Pakistan.
Annetta Flanigan from the UK, Shqipe Hebibi from Kosovo and Filipino diplomat Angelito Nayan were kidnapped at gunpoint from their vehicle last Thursday. All three had been contracted by the UN to oversee Afghanistan’s first presidential election on October 9. The three-day deadline coincides with the US presidential elections.
The United Nations issued an emotional appeal for the release of its three employees and expressed concern about their health. “We miss them and, like their friends and families, we worry about them, about their medical and physical condition, about their emotional well-being,” UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said at a news briefing in Kabul.
“We call on those holding them not to harm them. All three require medical attention and the best response is the immediate release,” de Almeida e Silva said.
Since Thursday hundreds of Afghan police from a newly trained commando unit have been searching the Paghman valley, a known lair of kidnappers and bandits.
The region, some 30 kilometres west of the capital, is also a stronghold of Islamic militants.
Philippine officials are working to establish contacts with groups that could help secure the release of the hostages, an official said.
Manila’s ambassador to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Jorge Arizabal, was in Kabul trying to “establish contacts with groups, institutions and foreign missions which could help in our government’s efforts to secure the safe release of Angelito Nayan,” Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis said.
“All Filipinos in Afghanistan are accounted for. They have been advised to limit their movements,” Seguis said, referring to the 37 Filipinos working with the UN in Kabul.
President Gloria Arroyo has met Nayan’s family to assure them the government would do everything possible for his safe return, officials said.
In July, Arroyo withdrew the small Philippine military contingent from Iraq after Islamic militants threatened to behead a Filipino truck driver they seized. The driver was later freed but the Philippines were severely criticised by the United States for capitulating to the kidnappers. agencies