Taleban militants in Afghanistan say they have executed two German hostages. The Islamist insurgents were demanding the release of all Taleban prisoners from Afghan prisons and an end to Germany's military presence in the war-torn country. Correspondent Benjamin Sand reports from VOA's south Asia news center in Islamabad.
A purported Taleban spokesman told reporters by phone both hostages were shot and killed Saturday afternoon.
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Zemari Basheri says the government is trying to confirm the Taleban's claims.
"Till now we cannot give any statement about the killing of the German workers by the Taleban," he said.
The German Foreign Ministry is also saying it has not received any independent confirmation that the hostages were executed.
Earlier Saturday German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected the Taleban ultimatum for German forces to pull out, saying German troops would stay in Afghanistan.
The unidentified German hostages, both reportedly engineers, were kidnapped Wednesday along with six Afghans outside the capital Kabul.
Taleban militants are also holding at least 18 South Koreans kidnapped Thursday.
The evangelical Christians were traveling between Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar deep inside the Taleban's traditional stronghold.
The mass abduction is the largest single group of foreign hostages taken since U.S.-led international forces ousted the Taleban regime in 2001.
Taleban militants are threatening to kill all its hostages unless South Korea agrees to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan.
Seoul currently has around 200 non-combat forces in the country and already has plans to redeploy them by the end of the year.
South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun issued a televised appeal for the hostages' safe return on Friday and insisted Seoul would conduct "sincere" negotiations for their release.
Afghan officials say kidnapping cases in general are on the rise as Taleban militants seek new ways to undermine support for Afghanistan's U.S.-backed central government.