The Taliban yesterday pushed back by another day a deadline for its demands to be met for the release of a French hostage and three Afghans captured a month ago, saying the ultimatum would now expire after the French elections.
The extremist group is demanding that French troops withdraws or Taliban prisoners be released in exchange for the hostages.
A spokesman for the extremist movement said it would now wait until after the results of today's French presidential election to decide the fate of the hostages.
The winning candidate is likely to be known by the time polls close at 6pm, 10:30am in Afghanistan.
"For the sake of the French nation who have asked for the Taliban's mercy we have extended the deadline for the French hostage and the Afghans until the end of the French elections," spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi said by telephone.
Ahmadi gave no precise time.
Terre d'Enfance (A World For Our Children) aid worker Eric Damfreville and three Afghans with him were captured in southwestern Afghanistan on April 3.
A Frenchwoman who was abducted with them, Celine Cordelier, was released on April 28, when the Taliban extended by a week for its demands to be met saying it was aware the French were "busy" with the election.
If its demands were not met, a council of elders would decide on the fate of the four, Ahmadi said last week. Asked if they could be killed, Ahmadi said the group's policy was "clear."
The militants have executed several Turks and Indians, but they have claimed responsibility for only one killing of a western hostage, a British engineer in 2005.
Ahmadi said on Friday there had been no negotiations for the four men.
"The deadline is drawing closer every moment," he said. "The French government and the Afghan government not only have not accepted our demands, but they even have not tried to contact us."
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Wednesday, however, that his government was doing what it could. "We are in close coordination with France, we are doing everything in that regard," he told reporters.
The French foreign ministry said in Paris on Friday "we consider that all useful and possible contacts must be made" in the case.
The Afghan government was heavily criticized last month when it freed five Taliban prisoners in exchange for an Italian journalist captured by the militants.
It was a one-off deal that would never be repeated, the government said afterwards.
Less than a week after the Italian was freed, a medical team that included Afghan doctors and nurses was captured in southern Afghanistan. The Taliban has said it has demanded certain prisoners in exchange for the five.
Cordelier, the French woman released on Saturday last week, met the international media hours afterwards her freeing to deliver a Taliban message that France's 1,000 troops must leave Afghanistan.
"Eric came, like me, to Afghanistan as a friend," Cordelier added in an appeal to the extremists who had held her for 24 days.
"Hashim, Rasoul and Azrat are Afghans. They are Muslims, they are their brothers. They have children who are waiting for them," Cordelier said.
"I have told them before leaving that my freedom is nothing without theirs. Release them," she said.
The Taliban were in government from 1996 to 2001 and famously carried out brutal punishments, including stonings, for perceived infringements of the ultra-conservative Islamic code of behavior.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable