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19 out of 31 abducted passengers released: Ghani denies paying ransom and prisoners’ swap

AT-KABUL: The Taliban has released 19 out of 31 abducted passengers on Monday, after over two months of captivity.

The passengers were kidnapped by armed masked men in Zabul province.

Chief of the Ghazni provincial council, Khaliq Dad Akbari, said that on Monday morning the 19 released passengers reached Jaghori district of Ghazni after long-term captivity in Khak-e-Afghan district of Zabul province.

He said the passengers were released after successful bargaining with the insurgent group by the Ghazni and Zabul elders. Akbari said that efforts are underway to release the remaining 12 abductees soon.

However, he did not say that whether the release was outcome of the prisoners’ exchange or ransom paid to the militant group.

Speaking about the Islamic State, he said that from his point of view Daesh or the IS has no presence in Afghanistan. He added that the recent development was just change of the flag’s color from white to black, and foreign militants were involved in it.

He hoped the security-related challenges would be resolved soon.

According to unconfirmed report, the 19 abducted passengers were released after the government freed some foreign militants. Release of the passengers had confirmed by the Ghazni Provincial Council, while earlier it was reported that two of the abductees were killed.

Militants who kidnapped 31 people from a bus in Zabul, southern provinces of Afghanistan, in February had recently released a video allegedly showing one of the hostages being beheaded, but the authenticity of video was not confirmed by the security officials.

The video was posted by Harakat Islamic Uzbekistan (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan). The terror group claimed that one of the 31 kidnapped people was beheaded because the government was reluctant to accept their demands.

President Ashraf Ghani told media on Monday that the government neither paid ransom nor freed militants to release the abducted passengers.

Ghani said that last year when the authorities went to help the Badakhshan landslide victims they found the Uzbek militants along with family members living in the caves.

According to the not-so-clear statement, the adult males were killed when detonated explosives-packed vest. Twenty-eight Uzbek citizens including six women and remaining children were “provided shelter” by the Afghan government and freed now.

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