Afghanistan | 21.07.2007
Despite Taliban Claims, One German Hostage Still Alive
An Afghan foreign ministry spokesman said on Saturday that one Taliban-held German hostage was alive and that a second had died of a heart attack, denying claims that militants had killed both.
In a day of fast-changing developments, a ministry spokesman said that Kabul authorities were working to secure the safe return of the hostage still alive.
"Our security agencies reported to us that one of the German engineers is still alive and the second died of heart attack and heat," ministry spokesman Sultan Ahmad Baheen told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
"Our security forces are trying to secure the safe return of the German national who is still alive (but) in custody," Baheen said, but declined to say who the kidnappers were.
A Taliban spokesman had earlier claimed both engineers had been killed following their kidnap last Wednesday, with the Taliban demanding that Germany withdraw its some 3,000 troops among the NATO forces in Afghanistan.
When the group's deadline for action expired earlier Saturday, it said it had executed both Germans.
Previously, the German ARD broadcaster also reported from its Kabul office that one of the hostages had died as a result of extreme heat and illness, but that the other was still alive and negotiations for his release were ongoing.
Merkel cancels interview
With the situation in flux, German Chancellor Angela Merkel postponed a TV interview which was to have been taped on Saturday by Germany's ARD broadcasting network. ARD said she might not now speak until just before the Sunday evening broadcast.
The head of the German armed forces, General Wolfgang Schneiderhan, said in an interview released on Saturday that the Taliban was trying to spread fear.
"In terms of alliance obligations, any pullout (from Afghanistan) would in my opinion be disastrous," he warned in the interview to be published in Monday's edition of the weekly Der Spiegel.
The interview was conducted prior to Saturday's events surrounding the German hostages.
Taliban demand pullout
Taliban insurgents on Wednesday kidnapped two German nationals along with their five Afghan colleagues in Maidan Wardak province.
Purported Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousef Ahmadi had said earlier, "the Taliban leadership council demands all the German troops be pulled out of the country and in addition all Taliban prisoners in Afghan government jails be released."
A German held for a week in western Afghanistan was freed by his abductors on July 5. It was not made known whether a ransom was paid. In Oct. 2006, two German journalists from the Deutsche Welle were shot dead in northern Afghanistan.
Emphasis on reconstruction
German troops in Afghanistan are stationed mainly in the relatively peaceful north. Their primary job is to help with local reconstruction projects to revive education and commerce.
The German Development Aid Ministry has an annual budget of 100 million euros ($138 million) for bilateral aid to Afghanistan, with about 20 million euros going direct to the Afghan government construction fund.
The United States, Japan, Britain and Germany are the main donors in the country.
Some German troops are also deployed in the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) against the Taliban.
In addition, Germany is leading EUPOL, a European Union mission to train and advise the Afghan police.
Picture: German soldiers are stationed mainly in the north of the country
Click to view image: '73520-02243894400.jpg'
In: Afghanistan, Middle East
Tags: Afghanistan, Germany, hostage, german, Taliban, heart attack, Sultan Ahmad Baheen, Angela Merkel, General Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Qari Mohammad Yousef Ahmadi, Maidan Wardak, German Development Aid Ministry, Operation Enduring Freedom, OEF, EUPOL, Deutsche
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