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Taliban cloud on Indian’s fate

New Delhi, Nov. 22: The Indian government tonight said there was no official confirmation of reports that kidnapped Indian driver R. Maniappan had been killed by the Taliban.

“We have no official confirmation of the reports” that he “has been killed”, the Prime Minister’s media adviser Sanjay Baru said.

“Our ambassador to Afghanistan (Rakesh Sood) got in touch with Afghan authorities who said they have no confirmation of the reports.”

Maniappan was abducted along with three others on Saturday in south Afghanistan. The hostage-takers had set a deadline of 48 hours for India’s Border Roads Organisation to quit the country.

A spokesman who claimed he was from the Taliban, Qari Mohammed Yousuf, today called up media organisations in Kandahar and Kabul and said Maniappan had been “executed” after the 6 pm deadline expired this evening.

“Since the Indian company did not listen or reply to our response, we killed the Indian engineer,” Yousuf told Reuters on satellite phone from an undisclosed location. The other organisations contacted were Tolo TV, Armaan Radio and AFP.

Yousuf, reported to be the Taliban leader for Kandahar province, said details on where to find the body would be given later. He said the fate of two kidnapped guards was yet to be decided by the Taliban council.

Kandahar province governor Asadullah Khalid, however, told The Telegraph over phone: “We have heard and we are trying to find out. I have asked for information from Nimroze.”

Maniappan and three others had been driving from Kandahar to the BRO base camp near Zaranj. They were abducted when they were passing through Nimroze province which adjoins Kandahar.

An Indian embassy source said Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai had spoken to Sood this evening after the purported claim by the Taliban.

Sood was told that Afghan authorities were aware of the developments but were still trying to secure Maniappan’s release despite the claims that he had been killed.

Asked how the embassy has taken the claim, the source said: “We do not know if the Taliban is speaking the truth or not.”

Although Yousuf is reported to have said there was no communication from the Indian side, foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said India was “in constant touch with Afghan authorities who have stated that they have no such confirmation”.

Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy spoke to Maniappan’s family at Haripad in Alappuzha district and assured them the reports had not been confirmed.

Maniappan was working on the BRO’s “Project Zaranj” that involves the rebuilding of a 219-km road from Zaranj to Delaram.

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