Elders' talks with Taliban on hostages unproductive
GHAZNI CITY (Pajhwok): A senior public representative in southern Ghazni province on Wednesday said tribal elders had repeatedly held talks with the Taliban’s Quetta Council in Pakistan on the release of 31 kidnapped passengers, but in vain.
Abdul Jami Jami, deputy head of the provincial council of Ghazni province, told Pajhwok Afghan News the elders had been referred to the Taliban’s Quetta Council for talks by the kidnappers.
The men were seized from passenger buses and kidnapped at gunpoint on Feb 23 on the road between Kabul and western Herat province in the Shahjoy district of southern Zabul province.
The kidnappers are believed to be members of the self-styled Islamic State (IS) group. However, so far no group has come forward to claim responsibility for the kidnapping.
A 25-member group of tribal elders from Ghazni travelled to Zabul province on March 14 to hold talks with the kidnappers, but they returned without achieving anything.
Jami, who led the delegation to Zabul, said they had many times held talks with gunmen aligned to the IS group and tribal elders had repeatedly visited Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, to hold talks with the Taliban’s Quetta Council.
“But it remains unclear what the kidnappers want in return for releasing the hostages,” said Jami.
A tribal elder, who was part of the delegation to Zabul, told Pajhwok Afghan News on condition of anonymity that the kidnappers were not independent in their decisions.
“They told us to go and hold talks with the Quetta council, we did so, but the council members told us that the government should first release their 12 men detained in Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz and other provinces.”
The elder said they were told the 12 detainees were Chechen and Uzbek nationals and leaders of their groups.
He said the Quetta Council members told the elders that first their demands should be met, but they did not fully explain their demands.
Meanwhile, Ghazni provincial council chief Khaliqdad Akbari accused the Pakistan Army and intelligence of kidnapping the passengers in order to fuel sectarian strife in Afghanistan.
However, Ghazni deputy governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi said no talks had taken place with the kidnappers. “All reports about talks with the kidnappers are wrong and all efforts by tribal elders to secure their release have borne no fruits.”
The official said it remained unknown who had kidnapped the passengers and what they demanded in return to free them.
Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid once again rejected the group’s involvement in the kidnapping.
He told Pajhwok Afghan News their comrades had launched an investigation into the abduction. Mujahid also rejected if the Taliban had any council in Quetta.
Afghan security forces had carried out operations in Zabul’s Khak-i-Afghan and Arghandab districts, killing a number of foreign militants, but could not find any clue to the whereabouts of the hostages.
Earlier, some officials and residents of Ghazni had said some of the kidnapped persons had been brought to Nawa, Gilan and Ab Band districts of the province from Zabul.
The kidnapped individuals, hailing from Ghazni, belong to the minority Hazara tribe and they were returning from Iran when kidnapped in Zabul.
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