10/01/2010, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN
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Taliban behind abduction of British aid worker

by Jibran Khan
A Taliban leader claims responsibility for kidnapping aid worker in an interview with a Peshawar-based news agency. However, other members of his Taliban group deny it is involved.
Kabul (AsiaNews) – British security forces confirmed that the British aid worker who was abducted on Sunday in northeastern Afghanistan with three Afghan colleagues is in Taliban hands.

They say that Mohammad Osman, who heads a local Taliban group, claimed responsibility for the abduction in an interview with the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP). He also set the conditions for her freedom, namely the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientists accused of ties to al-Qaeda.

The situation remains confused however. Other members of the Taliban group have denied that they are involved in the affair.

The woman, 36, from Scotland, has worked in Afghanistan for several years. She is employed by Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), a humanitarian organisation with more than 2,000 employees, including about 150 foreigners.

She and her three Afghan colleagues were taken prisoners on Sunday as they travelled in two vehicles in northeastern Kunar province.

For security reasons, British authorities have not yet released her identity.

“There are reports that the Taliban were behind the kidnapping, but so far the Taliban directly or through the local sources have not contacted us for negotiations,” DAI spokesman Steven O'Connor said.

Speaking to AsiaNews, local sources said that British troops from the elite Special Boat Service based near Kabul has been put on standby and a Special Forces negotiator is liaising with experts from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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