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Afghan TV Airs German Hostage Video

A kidnapped German engineer held hostage in Afghanistan for over a month has been shown pleading for help on Afghan TV. Efforts to free him and 19 South Koreans held by Taleban insurgents have stretched out for weeks. VOA correspondent Benjamin Sand reports from Islamabad.

The video aired Thursday morning on Afghanistan's private Tolo television station.

The German, identified as Rudolf Blechschmidt, is shown squatting on a black sheet, coughing and grabbing his chest as he appeals for help in English.

The video includes a translation in Dari by the local newscaster.

He says he is living in the high mountains and is in very bad condition.

With some prodding from his captors off screen he says the Taleban is trying to talk to the government and with the German Embassy but time is running out.

Blechschmidt was kidnapped in central Afghanistan on July 18, along with five Afghan colleagues and a second German engineer who later apparently was shot to death.

One of the other captives, who was not identified, was also featured in the video, begging Afghan President Hamid Karzai to help free them.

He says we are all Afghans, including the Taleban. For the sake of our children and for ourselves, he says, please try to release us.

Efforts are also underway to free 19 South Korean hostages in the central Afghan province Ghazni.

On July 19 Taleban insurgents seized 23 South Korean volunteer workers. Two were killed, two others released, the rest are still being held.

Security experts say the rash of kidnappings reflects a new strategy, copied at least in part from Iraq.

Analysts say the insurgents use kidnappings to terrorize communities and highlight the government's inability to protect them.

At the same time, the approach allows the militants to avoid a direct confrontation with better-armed international and Afghan troops.

The militants also, with varying degrees of success, use kidnappings to pressure foreign governments with a military presence in Afghanistan.

German, South Korean and Italian civilians have all been kidnapped in the past few months.

Taleban attacks in general are on the rise, and fighting continues throughout much of the country.

In Southern Afghanistan, a provincial police chief narrowly escaped a roadside bomb Thursday.

At least three civilians were killed and more than a dozen others wounded. A day earlier, a Taleban attack in the same region killed two Canadian soldiers and injured a journalist.

More than 6,500 people have been killed in the past 16 months, Afghanistan's bloodiest stretch since 2001 when a U.S.-led coalition ousted the hard-line Islamist Taleban government.