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Muslim Scholars Condemn Kidnapping of UN Workers

Disquiet has been growing among Afghans over the kidnappings of the three U.N. workers in Kabul.

Afghanistan's influential council of Muslim scholars Tuesday condemned the kidnapping as un-Islamic and called on the abductors to immediately release the hostages.

The council released a statement, saying Islam is a religion of peace and kindness and those who resort to such actions must know that their actions can only defame Islam.

Afghanistan's former president Burhanuddin Rabbani also said the abductions are un-Islamic. He says the hostages were innocent people who were trying to help Afghanistan.

He told Reuters news agency he does not accept the abductors as Muslims because they are creating a bad name for Muslim societies and Muslim people.

Afghan Hostage-Takers Hint Flexibility:

Militants holding three international workers hostage have indicated they might ease their demands that U.N. operations and foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

They said any compromise with the Afghan government would be mutual, and gave the hint as various groups tried to negotiate the hostages' release.

The militants, who call themselves the "Army of Muslims" (Jaish al-Muslimeen), have threatened to kill the hostages if their demands for the withdrawal and the release of Afghans held in foreign prisons are not met by Wednesday. On Sunday, they offered to consider extending the deadline.

Afghan officials say they are optimistic the U.N. workers will be freed unharmed.

The captives are from Northern Ireland, the Philippines and the Serbian province of Kosovo. They were kidnapped in the Afghan capital, Kabul, last Thursday.

They were in Afghanistan to help manage the country's first direct presidential election on October 9.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.