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Taliban releases video of kidnapped French journalists

KABUL (Reuters) - Two French journalists kidnapped in Afghanistan urged the French government to speed negotiations for their freedom in a video released by the Taliban Sunday.

The two journalists, along with their Afghan driver and translator, were seized in Kapisa province on December 30 while working on a story for France 3 television. The driver was later freed.

It had been unclear until Sunday who exactly had kidnapped the journalists, since abduction has become a lucrative business for both Afghan militants and purely criminal groups.

France 3 has asked that the two men not be named. They said they were healthy in the video, first obtained by Reuters.

“I have no idea what is happening. We have been given no information but I hope the negotiations are making progress,” one said. “Although we are being treated well, we feel the weight of the passing days and weeks.”

The other said they were being held by “a group of Taliban.”

“We have been held prisoner for three weeks and we want the French government to hold negotiations with these people so that we can be released as quickly as possible,” he said.

France 3 had no immediate comment.

The French Foreign Ministry again condemned the kidnapping and said it was working for the hostages’ freedom.

“State services are fully mobilized since December 30 and are doing their best to obtain the liberation of our two compatriots. We are in constant liaison with their families, with France 3 and with Afghan authorities,” the statement said.

In the past, both criminal gangs and Taliban have freed hostages after ransom was paid or as part of a prisoner swap, but they have also killed a number of foreign and Afghan captives, saying that their demands had not been met.

The journalists were driving through Shinkai district of Kapisa province, 120 km (75 miles) north of Kabul, when they were abducted.

The area is patrolled by French troops who are part of the NATO operation in Afghanistan. The Taliban and followers of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, another insurgent leader, operate there.

Additional reporting by Andrew Dobbie in London and Astrid Wendlandt in Paris; Editing by Michael Georgy