Taliban insurgents said Monday that an American professor abducted more than a year ago in Afghanistan is gravely ill and needs urgent care. They called on the U.S. government to accede to their demands in exchange for releasing him and a colleague.
Kevin King, 60, was seized at gunpoint along with Australian Timothy Weeks, 48, in their vehicle outside the American University of Afghanistan here in August 2016. The pair next appeared in a video in January, apparently unharmed but tearfully asking President Trump to secure their release by agreeing to free imprisoned militants.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said that the group had “periodically tried to treat and cure” King but that “since we are facing a war situation, we do not really have access to health facilities to provide him complete treatment.”
In an email to members of the media, Mujahid said that King was suffering from serious heart disease, kidney problems and swollen feet and that the group would hold the U.S. government responsible if anything happened to him. The spokesman said the Taliban has presented the United States with demands it wants met in return for the pair’s release, but he did not reveal what the demands were or how they had been communicated.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said U.S. officials were aware of the Taliban statement. On Monday afternoon, the embassy called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of King and all other hostages.
Calling the Taliban’s actions “appalling,” the embassy said in a statement that the U.S. government “will never stop trying to recover [King and Weeks] and other Americans held by criminal and terrorist networks around the world.” It made no mention of any Taliban demands or negotiations.
American University officials also urged the Taliban to immediately release both faculty members unharmed. The men are “innocent victims of a criminal abduction” who came “to teach Afghan youth and contribute to building a peaceful Afghanistan,” the university said. “They have done no harm to anyone.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Sayed Salahuddin, Pamela Constable