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Taliban demand Indians leave Afghanistan

Written by: Staff
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Apr 29 (Reuters) Taliban insurgents on Saturday threatened to kill a kidnapped Indian telecommunications worker unless Indians left Afghanistan.

The Indian and his Afghan driver were kidnapped after gunmen stopped their car on a road in the volatile southern province of Zabul yesterday. The Taliban claimed to have kidnapped him.

''If India does not pull out all its nationals working in Afghanistan by 1900 hrs Ist tomorrow, we're going to kill him,'' Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Violence and lawlessness across much of the Afghan south has crippled development, and the main task of thousands of NATO troops due soon to move into the region will be to ensure sufficient security for reconstruction.

Militants have kidnapped aid agency staff and foreign company workers, who the Taliban say are supporting the Western-backed government. Some have been released but several, including Turks and Indians, have been killed.

Yousuf said the Indian was a US spy.

Police reinforcements had been sent to Zabul to help with the hunt for the Indian and his driver, said Gulab Shah Alikhail, spokesman for the governor of Zabul.

''By the grace of God, we'll find him soon safe and sound,'' Alikhail.

He declined to comment on the Taliban demand and threat to kill the Indian, a contract worker for Afghan telecommunications company Roshan.

India has close relations with Afghanistan and is involved in numerous aid and reconstruction projects. India was collaborating with Afghanistan on the kidnap, an Indian government official said in New Delhi.

SECURITY FEARS Security is a major worry in Afghanistan with Taliban attacks mounting as NATO prepares to double its peacekeeping operations, and the United States hopes to cut its forces there by several thousand.

In a separate incident today, two Taliban were killed when government troops attacked a Taliban hideout in the volatile southern province of Helmand, a commander said.

About 3,500 British troops are going to be stationed in Helmand province, where the two Taliban were killed in an hour-long clash, said General Rahmatullah Raufi.

Taliban and other militants have attacked many schools in their campaign government efforts to promote education.

US and Afghan opposition forces drove the Taliban from power in late 2001 after the Islamists refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, architect of the September. 11 attacks.

Taliban and other militants have waged an insurgency against US-led foreign troops and government forces since then.

REUTERS PG PM1747

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