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Taliban Issue Demands For Release Of French Journalists

KABUL (Reuters) -- Taliban kidnappers holding two French journalists have demanded the release of a militant commander held by the United States and a cash ransom in return for freeing the hostages, an Afghan security official said.

Abdul Hamid Hakimi, head of the provincial security center for Kapisa Province said today that the militants had made contact and conveyed their demands.

The journalists, from France 3 television, were captured in Kapisa last week along with an Afghan driver and a translator. Media have reported that the driver was freed.

Afghanistan's private AINA TV said in a news report that a Taliban commander in the province had claimed to be holding the journalists.

French troops are stationed in Kapisa as part of the NATO operation in Afghanistan. The Taliban as well as followers of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, another insurgent leader, operate there.

Kidnapping foreigners for ransom has become a big business in Afghanistan. A British-Iraqi journalist was released last month after being held briefly.