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Afghan: Pak envoy's kidnappers demand release of top Taliban leader
Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad | April 20, 2008 22:06 IST
The Taliban, who have kidnapped Pakistan's envoy to Afghanistan Tariq Azizuddin, have demanded the release of a top leader and a few other Pakistani and Afghan militants.
A video showing Azizuddin, asking the Pakistan government to meet the demands of his abductors, including the release of some Taliban cadres, was aired by the Al Arabiya TV channel on Saturday.
The militants holding Azizuddin, his driver and bodyguard had demanded the release of Taliban leader Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, widely considered to have been the military chief of the Taliban.
They have also demanded the release of five or six other Pakistani and Afghan militants held by Pakistani authorities, the Dawn quoted a highly placed source as saying.
Akhund, the deputy to elusive Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, was captured by Pakistani security forces in Quetta on March 1 last year, coinciding with United States Vice-President Dick Cheney's visit to Islamabad.
Azizuddin, his driver and a bodyguard were abducted while driving from his home in the North West Frontier Province capital of Peshawar to Kabul on February 11.
"It's a mixed bag of people they want exchanged for the release of the ambassador and two other hostages," the source said.
Azizuddin had spoken to his family twice before the release of the relatively old video, which was recorded in early March, and authorities knew who his captors were but withheld the information to ensure that he remained unharmed, the source said.
In the video aired on Saturday, Azizuddin had also sought help from Pakistan's ambassadors to China and Iran, leading many to question what connection they had with his kidnapping and his captors' demands.
But the source said, "There is no link, nothing at least that we know of. Maybe they happen to be his friends and he wanted them to lean on the Foreign Office and Pakistani authorities to expedite his release."
However, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Maulvi Omar said his organisation had no link with Azizuddin's kidnapping or his video statement.
"We have no hand in his kidnapping nor have we anything to do with his video statement," Omar said. "We have already denied our role in his kidnapping."