Arab Television Channel Airs Taliban Video Showing Kidnapped French and Afghan Aid Workers

Saturday, April 14th 2007, 9:06 pm
By: News On 6

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Two French aid workers and three Afghans kidnapped by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan appeared in a video broadcast Saturday by the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya.

Earlier in the day, Canada's public broadcaster, CBC, posted on its Web site still photographs taken from the video but did not broadcast the tape.

Tony Burman, the editor and chief of CBC, said the broadcaster's bureau in Kandahar obtained the video Friday through a contact. It was not immediately clear how Al-Arabiya got its copy.

The gray, grainy footage shows a man talking to the camera and then a woman wearing a white head scarf also speaking, but Al-Arabiya did not broadcast their voices.

``The French hostages said on the tape that they were told that if there isn't a positive response on the part of French authorities to what the Taliban is asking, then they will be killed within a matter of days,'' Burman said. He said he did not know what those demands are.

Another clip showed three blindfolded, bearded men in traditional Afghan robes and pants who were crouching on the ground or leaning against a wall. A man with an automatic rifle, whose face is not shown, helps one of the blindfolded men get up and talks to him.

The five had not been seen since disappearing April 3 in Afghanistan's southwestern Nimroz province. Burman said CBC was told the video was shot Thursday.

The Taliban previously claimed to have kidnapped the group _ the aid workers and Afghan cook, driver and bodyguard, all employed by the humanitarian group Terre d'Enfance.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy declined to comment on the video, saying the footage was being analyzed. He stressed France was determined to get the workers released.

``More than ever, our objective is to bring them home safe and sound,'' he said.

The aid group's president, Antoine Vuillaume, said he was shocked by the video.

``Of course, they show that our five friends are alive, but they increase our concern about their fate,'' he told France-Info radio.

French President Jacques Chirac asked the Afghan government for help Thursday.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai told Chirac during their phone conversation ``that the relevant authorities will do their best to secure their release,'' said Karzai spokesman Karim Rahimi.

Karzai has ruled out exchanging jailed Taliban fighters for hostages, since coming under heavy criticism for Afghan authorities freeing five Taliban in return for the release of an Italian journalist who had been kidnapped March 5 with two Afghan colleagues. The two Afghans were killed.