Afghan translator reported killed by Taliban captors

Sunday, April 8, 2007

An Afghan interpreter, Ajmal Naqshbandi, kidnapped and held since March 5 by the Taliban in Afghanistan, was reported killed Sunday, according to a spokesman for the group.

Location of Helmand Province within Afghanistan

Naqshbandi was taken hostage in Helmand Province, along with Italian reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo and their driver, Syed Agha. Mastrogiacomo was freed March 20 in a controversial hostage exchange, while Agha was killed by the Taliban early in his captivity.

The exchange of La Repubblica reporter Mastrogiacomo for five Taliban prisoners was criticized, by security experts, as a precedent that could encourage further kidnappings. It was thought originally that Naqshbandi was also released as part of the exchange deal, but was later revealed by the Taliban that he was not released.

Mastrogiacomo and his editor at La Repubblica, Ezio Mauro, had made several appeals to the Afghan government to do what it could to secure the release of Naqshbandi. "This has already cost the life of Sayed Agha...we ask President Karzai to do all he considers just and possible to save [Naqshbandi's] life," said Mastrogiacomo and Mauro in their latest appeal.

The Taliban are holding two French aid workers and three Afghan colleagues, kidnapped last week in Nimroz Province, and are threatening to decide their fate next week. Ransom demands or deadlines have not yet been reported.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai, meanwhile, has ruled out any further exchange deals with the Taliban.

A BBC correspondent in Afghanistan reported that there was outrage in Afghanistan over the exchange deal that saw the safe release of Mastrogiacomo. Afghans were incensed that the government not only gave in to Taliban demands, but would do so to save a foreigner and not an Afghan.