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UN Hostages in Afghanistan Released, Captors Still at Large


Three foreign election workers kidnapped last month in Afghanistan's capital are now free and reported to be in good health. The Afghan government is still searching for the kidnappers.

The three United Nations workers were found in the capital Kabul early Tuesday morning, apparently abandoned by their abductors. The release came close to a month after the three were taken captive.

Afghan Interior Minister Ali Jalali said the authorities were still hunting for the kidnappers. "We will continue to search for the criminal elements that conducted this kidnapping" he said. "Their actions do not reflect the true nature of the Afghan people, and run counter to concepts of Islam."

Mr. Jalali confirmed reports that negotiations had taken place between police and the kidnappers. He declined to say whether a militant group associated with the former Taleban regime was behind the abduction.

The Jaish-e Muslimeen, or Muslim Army, has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, despite a later comment from the Interior Ministry saying the real abductors were an unnamed criminal gang.

The Jaish-e Muslimeen had demanded the release of Taleban loyalists imprisoned in Afghanistan, in exchange for the hostages.

After the release, the group claimed that the government had set 24 Taleban prisoners free. But Mr. Jalali said no deal was made with the kidnappers to secure the U.N. workers' release. "No [Taleban] prisoners were released," he stated. "No money was paid. No demand was met of the hostage takers."

Shqipe Hebibi of Kosovo, British-Irish national Annetta Flanigan, and Filipino diplomat Angelito Nayan were abducted at gunpoint from their U.N. car in Kabul on October 28.

U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva says their release prompted celebration among the rest of the U.N. staff. "Everyone is very relieved, very happy for them, and very grateful to the authorities for having brought them home safely," he said.

He says the three were given standard medical evaluations, and all appeared to be in good health.