Afghan Taliban vow to kidnap, kill more foreigners

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s Taliban plan to abduct and kill more nationals from foreign countries whose troops serve under NATO and the U.S. military in the country, a spokesman for the Islamic movement warned on Monday.The vow comes just days after the Taliban released 19 South Korean hostages after their government struck a deal that critics said sets a dangerous precedent that could spur more kidnappings and make life even more dangerous for foreigners.

“We consider it (kidnapping) as an arm that can help us in imparting a blow to the enemy,” Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“Kidnapping … and killing of (nationals) of those countries who have come for the annihilation of the nation of Afghanistan, are works which suppress the enemy,” he added.

Yousuf, one of two Taliban spokesmen, said the group would not target nationals from foreign countries who have no troops in Afghanistan.

Under the deal agreed last week, South Korea said it would pull its civilian nationals from Afghanistan by the end of August and withdraw its 200 troops working as doctors and engineers by the end of the year. The troop pull-out was already planned.

The Taliban, for its part, dropped its central demand for the release of jailed insurgents.

A senior Taliban commander said on condition of anonymity at the weekend that the deal also included a ransom payment of more than $20 million, which would be used to buy weapons and fund suicide attacks.

The commander’s comments followed widespread rumors of a ransom in Afghanistan and South Korea.

Afghan officials had said the deal was reached in a series of face-to-face negotiations after the group had already killed two men among the 23-member group of mostly female missionaries. A foreign diplomat said the Taliban side started the negotiations with a demand for $20 million.

Both the South Korean government and Taliban spokesman Yousuf deny a ransom was paid but when asked about the idea earlier in the week, a spokesman for South Korea’s president did not answer directly, saying only that the government had done what was necessary.

Since their ouster in 2001, the Taliban have kidnapped a host of foreigners and Afghans as part of their campaign against the Afghan government and the nearly 50,000 troops led by NATO and the U.S. military.

The group has killed some, but freed others. It is still holding one German aid worker kidnapped last month along with another German and five of their colleagues.

One German was found dead with gunshot wounds and the Taliban demand Berlin withdraw its troops serving to secure the release of the other. Germany has ruled out the Taliban demand.

The kidnapping of the Koreans has been the largest mass-abduction in the Taliban campaign so far.

The Taliban are largely active in southern and eastern areas of Afghanistan and are locked in near daily clashes with Afghan and foreign troops, in which around 7,000 people have died in the past 19 months — the bloodiest period since the resurgent Taliban’s fall.

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