By ALISA TANG, Associated Press
The Afghan government said it was investigating Taliban claims Saturday that the militants have released a French aid worker who was kidnapped early this month along with another French citizen and three Afghan colleagues.
Purported Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said that the French woman was handed over to tribal leaders in the Maywand district of southern Kandahar province. His claim could not immediately be verified.
“Because she was a woman, to make good relations with the French government, we have handed this woman over to Maywand district tribal leaders,” Ahmadi told The Associated Press by telephone.
Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said he was looking into the report, while an official in Kandahar said police have been dispatched to the area for further investigation. The Kandahar official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
The French man and woman, who work with the aid group Terre d’Enfance in southwestern Nimroz province, were kidnapped along with three Afghan colleagues on April 3.
Ahmadi said that the French man and the three Afghans were still being held, and he reiterated Taliban demands to the French government for their release.
“The French government has to stop giving military support to the Afghan government, and French forces should leave Afghanistan,” he said. “When the French government withdraws its forces from our country, then we will negotiate the release of this French man and three Afghans as well.”