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US, Australian hostages appear in Afghan Taliban video

This image made from a video released by the Taliban on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017 shows an Australian identified as Timothy Weekes (L) and an American identified as Kevin King (R) making a statement on camera while in captivity. (AP)

KABUL: An American and an Australian have appeared in a Taliban hostage video, five months after they were kidnapped from Kabul.
Gunmen wearing police uniforms abducted the two professors at the American University of Afghanistan in the heart of the Afghan capital on August 7, seizing them from their vehicle after smashing the passenger window.
The 13-minute, 35-second video circulated by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Wednesday offers the first apparent proof that they were still alive.
Australia said Thursday it “has been working closely with other governments to secure the release” of the hostage, but would not elaborate citing his family’s wishes and safety concerns. 
The video comes after US Special Operations forces conducted a failed secret raid in August to rescue them.
President Barack Obama authorized the raid in an unspecified area of Afghanistan but the hostages were not there, the Pentagon said in September.
The elite American University of Afghanistan, which opened in 2006 and enrols more than 1,700 students, could not be reached for comment. It has attracted a number of visiting faculty members from Western countries.
The abductions highlighted the growing dangers faced by foreigners in Afghanistan.
The Afghan capital is infested with organized criminal gangs who stage kidnappings for ransom, often targeting foreigners and wealthy Afghans, and sometimes handing them over to insurgent groups.

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