Afghanistan's Taliban claims the health condition of an American hostage, Kevin King, is rapidly deteriorating and he urgently needs better medical care.
The 60-year-old King and his Australian colleague, Timothy Weeks, 48, were teaching at Kabul's American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) before they were kidnapped at gunpoint near the campus in August 2016.
The Islamist insurgency later claimed responsibility and demanded release of Taliban prisoners held by both the Americans and Afghans.
Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said Monday King has been suffering from “dangerous heart and kidney diseases” and requires urgent medical treatment.
“We have periodically tried to treat and care for him but since we are facing war conditions and do not readily have access to health facilities therefore we are unable to deliver complete treatment,” Mujahid asserted.
His feet have begun swelling, he frequently losses consciousness and his health is deteriorating rapidly, said the spokesman.
Mujahid urged the United States to urgently accept Taliban demands to secure the release of the two hostages.
“Since the American side does not care about the life and death of its nationals hence we are warning them to accept the demands of the Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] presented for the freedom of these two detainees and secure their release,” the spokesman added.
If King’s illness becomes “incurable or he loses his life” the Taliban will not be held responsible, Mujahid warned.
It was not possible to seek independent verification of the claims made by the Taliban.
AUAF swiftly released a statement in response to the Taliban’s announcement, saying its board of trustees, students, staff and faculty “are deeply saddened and disturbed to receive the news about the deteriorating health condition of King and his colleague."
It again urged the Taliban kidnappers to immediately release the hostages unharmed.
“They are innocent victims of a criminal abduction. They came to Afghanistan to teach Afghan youth and contribute to building a peaceful Afghanistan. They have done no harm to anyone,” noted the statement.
“Kevin, we are immensely sad to hear about your health situation. Please know that you and Tim remain in our thoughts and prayers. We will not stop trying to work for your release. We urge your kidnappers to release you at once.”
The insurgents released two video messages from the hostages this year. In the last message in June, both men urged U.S. President Donald Trump and the Australian Prime Minister to negotiate their freedom with the Taliban.
King and Weeks looked haggard in the video and said the Taliban wants freedom for its “soldiers” being held at the U.S.-run Bagram air base and the Afghan prison called Pul-e-Charkhi in return for their freedom.
U.S. officials, while responding to the video at the time, said the administration was committed to seeing its citizens returned safely to their families and the department worked closely with agencies across the government to do so.
“We continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. Taking and holding civilian hostages is reprehensible and we condemn such actions in the strongest terms,” they maintained.
The two hostages are believed to be in the custody of the notorious Haqqani network, an ally of the Taliban. One of the prisoners the insurgents are demanding to be freed is Annas Haqqani who is on death row in an Afghan prison.
He is the youngest son of the founder of the Haqqani network, Jalaluddin Haqqani.
Other hostages rescued
Earlier this month, Pakistani security forces acting on an a tip from U.S. intelligence rescued American citizen Caitlan Coleman, 31, and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, along with their three children from the custody of Haqqanis.
The rescue operation was launched hours after the family was transported into Pakistan from the Afghan side, according to Pakistani and U.S. officials.
The U.S. CIA chief in a public talk later claimed Haqqanis held the hostages in Pakistan since they were kidnapped in 2012 from the volatile Afghan province of Wardak.
But in a recent interview to a Canadian newspaper, Coleman disputed Pakistani and U.S. statements, saying the family was brought to the Pakistani side of the porous border more than a year ago.
Caitlan was pregnant and was backpacking with her husband in Wardak when they went missing. The Taliban later claimed responsibility and demanded release of prisoners for freeing the westerners. Caitlan gave birth to four children in custody, but the family said their fourth child was killed by their Haqqani captors and their mother was also raped.
The Taliban denied the charges, saying Caitlan suffered a miscarriage due to lack of facilities in captivity and declared rape charges as baseless and an attempt to defame the Islamist insurgency.