Spin Boldak (Afghanistan), Mar 13: Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has ordered the execution of four foreigners, described as three Albanians and a German kidnapped in southern Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesman said.
Omar's order was read by telephone late yesterday to a Reuters reporter at the border town of Spin Boldak, in Kandahar province.
''These people had come to Afghanistan at America's behest, therefore they should be sentenced to death,'' Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf quoted the order as saying.
Earlier yesterday, Yousuf had said four Albanians and four Afghans were being held.
But he later said the four Afghans, two of them drivers, had been released, and identified the foreigners as three Albanians and a German.
Afghan authorities could not say what the kidnap victims had been doing in Kandahar province.
A Taliban court would try the men as spies for the United States, Yousuf said.
In the past, the Taliban have labelled as US spies kidnapped employees of companies and non-government organisations involved in Afghanistan's reconstruction.
Authorities in Kandahar said a search was on for the kidnapped men, who had been travelling in two vehicles when they were held up at gunpoint.
US-led forces overthrew the Taliban government in late 2001, after its leadership refused to surrender Osama bin Laden following al Qaeda's September 11 attacks on the United States.
Since then the Taliban have been fighting to overthrow President Hamid Karzai's Western-backed government and to force out foreign troops.
The insurgents have killed several foreigners after kidnapping them, including a Briton involved in a road project who was found dead in September and an Indian killed in November.
Both men were killed within days of their abduction.