Taleban offers more time for Italian hostage

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Afghanistan’s Taleban movement, which threatened to kill an Italian journalist unless its demands were met, said Friday the ultimatum was over but could be extended on request.

Daniele Mastrogiacomo, 52, was kidnapped with two Afghan colleagues in southern Afghanistan on March 4.
A top Taleban commander told AFP last Saturday that the Italian would be killed in seven days unless two captured Taleban spokesmen were released and Italy set a date for the withdrawal of its 2,000 troops in Afghanistan.
‘The ultimatum is over,’ Taleban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP by telephone Friday.
He said the group had however told ‘the Italians we are in contact with’ that it could be extended. ‘We told them if you request for time via media, we will give you more time,’ he said.
‘There has been some progress in negotiations and if our demands are accepted, we will release the journalist.’
Ahmadi did not make clear who the group was in talks with.
Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema said Thursday his government was not negotiating with the Taleban but that there were ‘humanitarian sources which maintain the contacts.’
Mastrogiacomo’s employer, La Repubblica newspaper, on Thursday made an appeal for the ‘necessary time’ to allows the negotiations to continue.
In a recorded message obtained by Afghanistan’s Pajhwok News Agency, the correspondent said if nothing was done by Friday ‘it will create problems for me.’

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