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Afghan Militants Say U.S. Holding Up Hostage Deal

13 November 2004 -- A Taliban splinter group threatening to kill three UN hostages in Afghanistan today accused the United States of upsetting negotiations for their release.

The Jaish-e Muslimeen (Army of Muslims) group has demanded the release of 26 Taliban prisoners as part of a deal to free UN workers Annetta Flanigan from Northern Ireland, Shqipe Hebibi from Kosovo, and Filipino diplomat Angelito Nayan, who were abducted in Kabul on 28 October.

But U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, visiting Afghanistan on 10 November, said he opposed any concessions.

The group's self-proclaimed leader told The Associated Press that Armitage has dashed hopes that the hostages could be freed before the Islamic feast of Eid al-Fitr, which begins in Afghanistan today.