Taliban extends deadline for hostage release


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Kabul : Taliban said Saturday it was extending the May 5 deadline to the French government to withdraw its peacekeeping forces under NATO command for release of the French hostage and his three Afghan colleagues until elections in France are over and a new dispensation is in place.

Taliban militants kidnapped two French aid workers with Terre d'Enfance, an agency helping children, in Nimroz province on April 2 and asked the French government to withdraw its some 1,000 forces conducting peace keeping operation under NATO command.

The group last week set May 5 as a deadline for the French government to withdraw while releasing Celine, the female aid worker, and keeping the male along with three Afghans.

"Since there is an ongoing election among the French people in their country … the leadership of Islamic Emirate extends the deadline for the hostage from 5/5/2007 until the formation of new government in France," Qari Muhammad Yousif Ahmandi said in a statement posted on their website.

He said that the group accepted the extension after "repeated demands" by the French government.

Last month, Taliban released Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo in a controversial deal after the Afghan government released five Taliban members.

The militants however, executed his Afghan translator, Ajmal Naqshbandi and his driver, Sayed Agha. The deal sparked severe criticism from both inside Afghanistan and in the international community, including the US and Britain.

The Taliban still hold four other Afghan medical workers and their drivers who were kidnapped earlier in Kandahar province. The Afghan government has been asked to hand over more militant prisoners in exchange for their safe return.