ISI, Taliban from Pak calling shots in hostage crisis, says Afghan governor

Posted online: Monday, August 06, 2007

GHAZNI (Afghanistan), August 5: The governor of the Afghan province where Taliban militants took 23 South Koreans hostage has accused Pakistani Taliban working with Pakistani intelligence agents of holding them captive.

“In the beginning it was the local Taliban, but after a few days, Pakistani Taliban and ISI officers disguised as Taliban arrived in the region and they took control of the situation,” Ghazni Governor Merajuddin Pattan told Reuters.

Pakistani officials were not immediately available for comment on Pattan’s accusation, which could spark another downturn in relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, both frontline allies of the United States. Pakistan’s ISI was one of the main backers of the Taliban movement as it rose to take over most of Afghanistan in the mid-1990s, but dropped its support in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the US.

Taliban militants seized 23 Korean church volunteers from a bus in Ghazni province on the main road south from Kabul on July 20. The kidnappers have shot dead two male hostages after Kabul refused to give in to their demand and free Taliban prisoners.

Pattan, a soft-spoken US-educated economist, has been closely involved in talks between the Taliban kidnappers and an Afghan negotiating team sent from Kabul. He said that during one telephone conversation, he had heard one of the kidnappers translating from Pashto, the language used by ethnic Pashtun Taliban, to Urdu, Pakistan’s national language.

He also noted that the kidnappers had stopped setting deadlines since South Korean envoy Baek Jong-chun traveled to Islamabad.