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Ex-Taliban Commander Claims Kidnapping OF French Aid Workers

A former Taliban commander has told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that his militia fighters are responsible for the kidnapping of two French aid workers.

Commander Sadaqat, an ethnic Hazara militia leader who fought for the Taliban regime for three years, telephoned an RFE/RL correspondent in Kabul from an unknown location in the central Afghan province of Dai Kundi to make the claim.

Sadaqat did not issue any demands for the return of the hostages, who were abducted on July 18. He said he was no longer a Taliban supporter and was not an enemy of Afghanistan's central government, but that he had ordered the kidnapping because of "problems with local authorities" who had left him "marginalized."

"We want the problem to be solved peacefully," Sadaqat said.

When asked to prove his abduction claim, Sadaqat put RFE/RL in touch by telephone with a man who identified himself as one of two hostages from the French aid group Action Against Hunger.

In Paris, a spokesperson for Action Against Hunger told RFE/RL that information provided by the man suggested that he was, indeed, one of the two French hostages.

The aid group has condemned the kidnapping and since suspended all its relief operations in Afghanistan, which included providing food aid.

Sadaqat had been a member of an ethnic Hazara faction from central Afghanistan known as the Akbari Group. He had also fought on the side of the Taliban before U.S.-led forces ousted the regime from Kabul.

Sadaqat and his militia fighters later broke away from the Taliban. However, Sadaqat continues to be a rival of two prominent ethnic Hazara government officials in Kabul -- Second Vice President Abdul Karim Khalili and Haji Mohammad Muhaqiq, a member of parliament and the former Afghan minister of planning.

Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Jawad Omid contributed to this report from Kabul