German hostage on TV, appeals for help

KABUL (AFP) – A German engineer and four fellow hostages held by the Taliban appealed for help in a video broadcast Thursday on private Afghanistan television which showed him slumped over and coughing.Speaking with apparent difficulty, Rudolph Blechschmidt said that he was a prisoner and in poor health, and urged the Afghan government and German embassy to do all they could to secure his release.

Four Afghans kidnapped along with the German also appeared in the video, and one appealed to President Hamid Karzai’s government and the national parliament to help them win freedom.

The 62-year-old German was kidnapped in southern Afghanistan on July 18, one day before a group of South Korean aid workers were also abducted.

“I’m a prisoner. My health condition is not good, I’m in a bad condition,” Blechschmidt said in the video shown by Tolo television station, which was less than two minutes long.

“I’m a friend of the Afghan people and I want the government of Afghanistan and the German embassy in Kabul and the German government to help me win my freedom,” he said.

Blechschmidt spoke in English with a strong German accent but most of what he said was not audible and was translated into Dari by the television station.

Standing in front of the others, one of the Afghan hostages said “we’re Afghans” and called on the government and parliament to help free them.

“We want the Karzai administration to secure our release. They (government officials) should think of our kids,” said the hostage, whose name was not mentioned.

He also appeared to be nervous as he made some other remarks which were not intelligible.

The Taliban have demanded the release of 10 of their jailed colleagues in the Afghan prisons in exchange for the German and the four nationals, a demand Kabul had strongly rejected.

The militants have separately demanded the release of some Taliban prisoners in return for 19 South Koreans kidnapped around the same time as the German engineer.

Talks between the Taliban captors and a South Korean delegation over the release of the Korean aid workers from a Christian church have remained deadlocked after the two sides failed to reach an agreement.

The insurgents have already shot dead two of their male hostages to pressure the Afghan government to release prisoners, and have threatened to kill the others if their demands are not met.

According to the Tolo presenter, the Taliban demanded in the latest video that Germany withdraw its 3,000 NATO-led troops from Afghanistan.

The Taliban, ousted from power in late 2001 by US-led forces, have said that Iraq-style kidnappings would be their new tactic to pressure the US-backed government and drive tens of thousands of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

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