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Taliban: U.S. Citizen Died in Taliban Custody

A senior Taliban official said Sunday that an American was arrested two weeks ago in southern Afghanistan and later died in custody of natural causes.

John Bolton of California entered Afghanistan as a relief worker and was arrested at Spinboldak near the border with Pakistan, Taliban official Amir Khan Muttaqi said by telephone from the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

He did not give his age or hometown.

In Washington, State Department officials had no comment on the report. A spokeswoman said Sunday the department had never confirmed an American was in custody there.

The Taliban claim they have arrested several Americans on spying charges since the U.S.-led strikes started Oct. 7.

Muttaqi said Bolton died of natural causes in the hospital and that his body has been handed over to the International Committee of Red Cross. He did not say when he died.

In Geneva, ICRC spokesman Vincent Lusser said the group's staff in Kandahar had been informed by the Taliban that there was a body of an American. But he said they have yet to receive the body or confirm the person's identity or occupation.

Lusser said the ICRC needed the approval of the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan and Afghan officials to repatriate the body.

"We're going to see tomorrow what the situation is, and if we have a request from both parties to repatriate the body we will of course do it," he said.