Jan 14, 2017

Afghan Taliban video purportedly shows American, Australian hostages, CNN.com

Afghan Taliban video purportedly shows American, Australian hostages By Barbara Starr, Peter Bergen and Steve Almasy, CNN Updated 2:02 PM ET, Thu January 12, 2017 Story highlights The two teachers were abducted in Afghanistan The men in the video ask President-elect Donald Trump to negotiate their release (CNN)The Afghan Taliban released a new video Wednesday purportedly showing two teachers from the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul begging US President-elect Donald Trump to make a deal for their release. What appears to be the first "proof of life" of kidnapped US citizen Kevin King, 60, and of Australian citizen Timothy Weeks, 48, was posted online by the Taliban and distributed to media outlets. The two teachers were abducted together five months ago in western Kabul near the university. On the video, Weeks, who says the recording was made January 1, says that four heavily armed Taliban soldiers kidnapped them one night in early August. The two have a haggard look and appear emotional in the video. CNN has not independently verified the video. The nearly 13-minute long Taliban propaganda video shows the two men pleading to Trump to negotiate a prisoner swap. Weeks appeals for the President-elect's help saying, "Donald Trump, sir, I ask you please. This is in your hands." Weeks also begs with tears in his eyes, "My mother, I know you are sick in hospital. I know I may never see you again. ... If we stay here for much longer we will be killed. I don't want to die here." This is similar to what another American citizen held by the Taliban asked for in a video that was released last month. \ American Caitlan Coleman, 31, and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, 33, were kidnapped by the Taliban in 2012. In the video released in December, Coleman also addresses Trump, saying the Taliban "are not going to simply release our family easily, because it is correct. They want money, power and friends. ... We are told there are Afghans who are prisoners in Kabul that these men care about." Exchanging Taliban members held by the Afghan government for Western hostages would be politically costly for the Afghan government, a senior Afghan official told CNN. That said, the incoming Trump administration will have considerable leverage with the Afghan government because the Afghans are hoping for some kind of continued American troop presence in Afghanistan. Right now it is not clear what the Trump administration position is on this issue. The Taliban said Wednesday that it "wants to deliver the videos of these detained invaders to their respective countries so their people understand that their governments will not listen to the reasonable and easy demands of the mujahideen for the release of their citizens." In September, three administration officials told CNN that US Special Operations Forces from SEAL Team 6 attempted to rescue the two teachers shortly after they were kidnapped but the captives were not at the location the US forces raided. One other American is believed to be held hostage in Afghanistan or Pakistan: writer Paul Overby, who is in his 70s. The FBI has sent out a kidnapped/missing persons poster mentioning the two men in Wednesday's video. In part the poster reads, "The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating the disappearance of United States Citizen Kevin King, who was last seen with Australian citizen Timothy John Weeks in Kabul, Afghanistan. On Sunday, August 7, 2016, the two men were forcibly removed from their vehicle while traveling in Kabul. If you have any information concerning this case, please contact your local FBI office, the nearest American Embassy or Consulate, or the nearest Australian Embassy or Consulate. Tips may remain anonymous."