Taliban ‘flexible’ about demands

KABUL, Afghanistan – A Taliban splinter group threatening to kill three U.N. hostages said Tuesday there was “some flexibility” about their demands, which include the world body’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Government officials were optimistic the Iraq-style abduction could end with the foreigners’ release but said they had no contact with the kidnappers one day before a deadline on the hostages’ fate.

Jaish-al Muslimeen, or Army of Muslims, claimed it abducted Annetta Flanigan of Northern Ireland, Filipino diplomat Angelito Nayan and Shqipe Habibi of Kosovo in the Afghan capital Thursday. All three hostages were in the country to help manage its Oct. 9 presidential election, apparently won by interim leader Hamid Karzai.

Jaish-al Muslimeen released a video Sunday showing the captives pleading for their freedom. The group suggested it would start killing the captives today.

Jaish-al Muslimeen is also seeking the pullout of British troops and the release of al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners from U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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