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The German Hostage in Afghanistan

Monday, July 30, 2007

Unlike in the case of Iraq (see "Germany Pays for Terror"), in that of Afghanistan it is clearly plausible that Germans might become the object of politically motivated hostage-taking operations. Germany has over 3,000 troops in the north of Afghanistan. Nonetheless, according to the information thus far coming out of Afghanistan and Germany, it appears that the two German construction engineers who were seized in an ambush earlier this month in Wardak province were likely not the object of the operation. One of the two Germans, identified in German press reports as Rüdiger D., is known to have died. The circumstances of his death remain unclear. Initial reports suggested that he died of a heart attack. But after his body was transferred to Kabul, reports emerged, citing German police sources, that the body displayed multiple bullet wounds. An autopsy is supposed to be performed in Germany.

The second German remains in captivity along with a reported four Afghan hostages. Demands made by a supposed Taliban spokesperson named Qari Mohammad Yusuf have, however, been rejected out of hand by German authorities. According to the latest reports, it appears indeed that the German hostage, unlike the Korean hostages, is not being held by Taliban forces. Here, for instance, a translated excerpt from a report published last week by Germany's ARD public television:

Nothing is known about the demands of the kidnappers. A conflict between local clans has evidently played a role in the affair. It is highly likely that the local group of armed Pashtuns [who are presumed to be holding the hostages] have criminal and not political motives. There is no indication, moreover, that the hard core of the Taliban and the leadership under Mullah Omar have any access to the hostages. For over two days, a Taliban spokesman claimed that Taliban fighters had killed all the hostages. Yesterday, he adjusted his version to conform to the information provided by the Afghan government: one German and four Afghans are still alive. As the [German] federal government refuses to withdraw German troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban spokesman reduced his demands on Germany to the release of 10 Taliban fighters.

Germany, it should be noted, is not holding any Taliban fighters prisoner. So, if the latter demand was to be fulfilled, it would have to be so by the Afghan, not the German, government. Negotiations are reportedly under way between German authorities and the actual kidnappers in Wardak province. Given Germany's recent record in hostage situations, both in Iraq and elsewhere, and given the apparently non-political motives of the kidnappers, one can presume that the object of the negotiations is ransom.

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