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Taliban Claims German Hostages Executed

The Taliban is demanding that German troops leave Afghanistan (file photo) (epa) July 21, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- A purported Taliban spokesman said today that the group has killed two German hostages it had been holding in Afghanistan since July 18, while an Afghan official said one is still alive.

Qari Yusof Ahmadi discussed the fate of the hostages today in a telephone interview with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan from an undisclosed location.

Demands Not Met

"Regarding those two German citizens who were abducted by the mujahedin in Ghazni Province and were being held up to now by the mujahedin. There was a demand from the Taliban to the German and Afghan governments that German forces must leave Afghanistan and that the Afghan government must release its Taliban prisoners," Ahmadi said.

"If they had accepted these demands, we would have released the hostages," he added. "But the German government said that their forces would not leave Afghanistan, and the Afghan government did not respond."

The second of the two Germans was reportedly shot dead at 1:10 p.m., local time, about an hour after the first was killed.

"If they had accepted these demands, we would have released the hostages." -- Taliban spokesman

However, AP quoted Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Sultan Ahmad Bahin as saying one of the hostages had died of a heart attack, and that the other was still alive. He said officials are still trying to secure the release of the hostage.

The two unidentified Germans and five Afghans were abducted on July 18. Many reports have said they were kidnapped as they were traveling in Wardak Province, about 100 kilometers south of Kabul, while Ahmadi referred to their being abducted in Ghazni Province. The two Germans were reportedly engineers working in the country.

Contradictory Claims

Germany's Foreign Ministry initially responded to the Taliban demands by playing down reports that the Taliban was behind the abductions.

On July 20, German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said there were "contradictions" between different claims about the abductions.

Today, the German Foreign Ministry said had no independent confirmation about the executions. But Jaeger said the German government was taking Ahmadi's statements "very seriously" and was "pursuing all the indications."

The Taliban spokesman did not mention the condition or fate of some 20 South Korea hostages who were abducted by the Taliban in Ghazni Province on July 19.

That group of Christian volunteers reportedly was abducted from a chartered passenger bus while traveling on Afghanistan's main highway from Kandahar to Kabul.

Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahin confirmed today that the South Koreans are the largest group of foreigners seized by the Taliban in their bid to oust Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government and drive foreign security forces from the country.

"Our embassy in Korea had issued visas for 20 Korean citizens based on a request by the South Korean nongovernmental organization -- the Foundation for World Aid," Bahin said. "Of the 20 South Korean citizens, 13 are female and seven are male. They were here to provide help for the 200-bed hospital in Kandahar Province."

A spokeswoman in Seoul for the group said they had arrived in Afghanistan on July 13 and were due to return to South Korea on July 23. Bahin said the group did not inform Afghan security forces about their intended destination before traveling.

South Koreans Still Held

In Seoul, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun demanded the immediate release of the hostages. He told journalists today that his government is doing all it can to secure the release of the group.

"I sincerely pray the kidnapped are safely returned," he said. "The government has been making every effort for the quick and safe return of them. I heard the kidnapped were doing voluntary medical work there. They are innocent people. They should not be taken as hostages. Those who kidnapped these people should return the Koreans quickly and safely. In any case they should not hurt people's lives -- which are priceless."

Earlier, South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said Seoul would keep to its planned timetable of pulling its troops out of Afghanistan at the end of this year.

His announcement followed demands by the Taliban for the withdrawal of some 200 South Korean troops in Afghanistan.