German woman pleads on Afghan tv


A German woman abducted in the Afghan capital at gun point appeared in a video today asking Berlin to use every effort to gain her freedom.

Wearing a long headscarf and a red local outfit, the blonde woman read from a note in Dari:

"I am fine ... I ask my country to urgently help and cooperate for my release," she said in a video aired by private television station Tolo, while displaying an identity card that read Christina Barbara Meier.

The woman, apparently in a small room, introduced herself in English and said she was an employee of "ORA International" aid agency. A man who was not seen in the tape asked her questions in broken English.

A bespectacled young man who had covered his face appeared on the video to say the abductors were not Taliban, adding they belonged to a "special network."

He demanded the release of the group's men held by President Hamid Karzai's government. He did not give any figure or names, adding details would be passed to the government through special channels.

The television did not say when the video was recorded.

The German Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the video, saying only it was in the process of analyzing it. The Afghan government also had no immediate comment but earlier on Sunday, the Interior Ministry said police continued to search for the German aid worker.

Meier's kidnapping is the first of a Westerner in the Afghan capital for more than two years. She was seized from a Kabul restaurant while having lunch with her husband on Saturday.

The ministry said the abductors were not Taliban guerrillas who have seized more than 30 people, many of them foreigners, in several parts of the country in recent weeks.

It said the culprits could be members of a criminal gang, but added their motive was not known.

Suspected criminal gangs have abducted a number of Westerners in Kabul, but have released them unharmed, usually after a ransom was paid.

Crime has jumped in recent years in some areas of Afghanistan, where weapons are abundant. The kidnapping of Afghans usually does not draw much Western media attention.

Meier's abduction comes as the Afghan government is grappling with the release of 19 South Korean hostages and a German male aid worker seized at separate locations by Taliban last month to the southwest of Kabul.

The Taliban have killed two of the Korean Christian volunteers, but freed two women from the group last week as a gesture of goodwill during talks with Korean diplomats.

The Taliban says talks have failed and demands that jailed Taliban members by Kabul in exchange for the hostages.

The Taliban have also killed one German man and are holding four of his Afghan colleagues.