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Aid Worker's Afghan Kidnapper Issues Demands To RFE/RL

Prague, 18 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- In a telephone call to RFE/RL, a man claiming to be the kidnapper of an Italian aid worker in Afghanistan has presented his demands for her release.

The Afghan Interior Ministry has told RFE/RL that it is convinced the call was made by the person holding Clementina Cantoni. She is a 32-year-old employee of the CARE International aid agency who was abducted from her car in central Kabul on 16 May.

The caller phoned RFE/RL's Kabul bureau yesterday and identified himself as Timor Shah from the village of Qala Jala in the Mosaie District of Kabul Province. He said Cantoni will be released if the Afghan government meets three demands.

"Our demands are legitimate and according to the Islamic Sharia," the kidnapper said. "Our first demand is that the Wednesday night youth program of [the private Kabul radio station] Radio Arman should be completely stopped. Second, the land of all farmers has been destroyed because of poppy cultivation. They have lost their economy. Poppies should not be cultivated because it is against the Sharia. And as poppies are being destroyed, the importation of alcohol should be stopped. This is our second condition. And our third demand and request of the government is about the way the schools and other education centers are operated in Kabul and in Afghanistan. The opening of madrasas [Islamic schools] should be considered. We have these three demands. If they are met, we can release the lady safe and sound."

Afghan President Hamid Karai's office has confirmed that it is aware of the demands but offered no immediate comment.

(By Ron Synowitz with Sharifa Sharif, Hashem Mohmand, and Amin Mohammad Mudaqiq of RFE/RL's Afghan Service and Golnaz Esfandiari)