Afghanistan

Afghanistan: Kidnappers say they will release Italian hostage soon

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Kabul (dpa) - The kidnappers of an Italian aid worker taken hostage in Afghanistan said Wednesday that they were considering releasing their captive, the Tolo private television station said.

It quoted the alleged kidnapper Timor Shah as saying there was a strong possibility that 32-year-old Clementina Cantoni would soon be free, but did not elaborate on the details behind the decision.

Shah has previously issued several conditions for Cantoni's release, including a ban on local station Radio Arman broadcasting its Wednesday night youth programme, a clampdown on importing and selling alcohol and greater government attention to Madrasa (religious schools).

Shah did warn however that comments made by an Afghan judge had created problems in negotiations between Afghan officials and the kidnappers.

The judge accused Shahs mother, who is imprisoned in Afghanistan, of having connections with the killers of an Afghan businessman.

Shah claimed that Cantoni was in good condition. There had been concerns over her health earlier in her captivity.

"We have got access to a doctor and she is now in better condition,'' Shah told Tolo.

Her wellbeing was verified by the Italian government, with Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini saying Wednesday that she was alive and doing fine.

Cantoni, an employee of charity CARE International, was kidnapped by four armed men while driving in central Kabul on May 16.

Hundreds of Afghan women, many of them widows, have since staged demonstrations in the Afghan capital to demand her release.

Both the Italian and Afghan governments have ruled out political or terrorist motives for Cantoni's abduction.

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