France reacts to Taliban ultimatum

Long-term military presence ruled out as French hostages' fate hangs in the balance.

    The Taliban released a video on April 14 of the two French aid workers pleading for help [AFP]

    The Taliban captured two French aid workers in southwestern Afghanistan at the beginning of April and has threatened to kill them unless France withdraws its troops from the country as one of the conditions for their release.

    Taliban deadline

    The Taliban gave France a week on April 20 to pull its forces out of the country.

    The French are part of a 35,000-strong Nato-led operation in Afghanistan, which took over command of a war against the Taliban from US-led forces last year.


    On April 14, the Taliban released a video of the two French aid workers - a woman who identified herself only as Celine and a man who called himself Eric - pleading for help.


    "My name is Celine. I am French. I am working for a French NGO called TDE - Terre d'Enfance," the woman said on the video.


    "I have been kidnapped and I am now in the hands of the Taliban with Eric, Hashim, Hazrat, and Rasul."


    Daniele Mastrogiacomo, an Italian journalist who was kidnapped in March, was freed after two weeks when Kabul released five senior Taliban prisoners.


    His Afghan driver and translator were beheaded.


    The Mastrogiacomo deal drew criticism in Afghanistan and Italy for encouraging the Taliban to take more hostages.

    District captured?

    Meanwhile, according to a Taliban spokesman, the group has captured the district of Giro situated in eastern province of Ghazni after killing its leadership and six policemen in an attack.

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    Yousuf Ahmadi said the district is in control of the Taliban, adding that its fighters had killed the district governor and the police chief.

    But the claim was dismissed by an officer at the Ghazni police headquarters.


    Speaking on condition of anonymity: "In a Taliban attack last night, the district governor and district police chief were killed, that is true.

    "Since the district authorities have been killed, of course there is a gap in power.


    "But the Taliban are not in control of the district. The provincial police headquarters are in an emergency meeting to immediately appoint a new district chief and police chief with some fresh forces and send them to the district."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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