Afghan TV Shows Tape of Kidnapped German Hostage

Afghan television on Sunday broadcast what it said was video of a kidnapped German aid worker — prompted by a man off-camera — calling for the release of prisoners, but police said Taliban militants were not behind the woman's brazen daytime abduction.

The woman, shown sitting on the floor inside a room, her head covered with a white scarf, identified herself as Christina Meier. She said "I am OK" and then read a letter in the Afghan language, Dari, calling for the release of unknown prisoners.

She was prompted to make remarks both in English and in Dari by a man speaking in broken English.

The private Tolo TV, which broadcast the video, did not say how it obtained the material.

"I am fine. There are not threats against me. I want from my country to do what it can for my release," she says in Dari, reading from a piece of paper, while seated, occasionally looking up toward camera.

A male voice off-camera prompts her to say, "to help" and tells her also to use the word "urgent."

"Please help for my release, and help me," she says.

A man, his head covered with a scarf and wearing sunglasses inside a room, appears afterward and demands from Afghan government to release a number of unknown prisoners. He says a member of the group would provide the government with the list.

"We are not bad people. We are a special network," the man says at the end of the video. He does not identify the group or say whether it is linked to the Taliban or other insurgents operating in Afghanistan.

In recent weeks, the Taliban have offered media interviews with their foreign hostages, apparently hoping to appeal to public sentiment and thereby pressure the Afghan government to release Taliban prisoners. In such cases, the hostage's comments and message are controlled by the captors and the statements are made in that context.

Germany's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the video.

Police earlier Sunday said that the Taliban militants were not responsible for the abduction of the woman, who was seized Saturday as she dined with her husband at a restaurant in Kabul.

Ali Shah Paktiawal, head of police criminal investigations in Kabul, said authorities had launched a large-scale manhunt for those behind the kidnapping of the 31-year-old woman.

Paktiawal ruled out involvement of the Taliban in the abduction, but would not say who was responsible.

Kabul provincial police chief Esmatullah Dauladzai said it was premature to say who was involved, but that he was "very, very optimistic" that the woman would be released soon. He would not explain the reason for his optimism.

In Saturday's kidnapping, four men pulled up to a restaurant in a gray Toyota Corolla, and one went inside and asked to order a pizza, intelligence officials investigating the incident said.

They said two other men waited outside, while another remained in the car.

The man in the restaurant pulled out a pistol, walked up to a table where the couple was sitting and took her from the restaurant, the officials said on condition of anonymity due to agency policy. The husband was not abducted.

Police spotted the speeding car and opened fire, but hit a nearby taxi and killed its driver.

The woman and her husband, also a German, have worked for the Christian organization Ora International in Kabul since September 2006, said Ulf Baumann, a spokesman for the group.

Baumann did not disclose the woman's name or her husband's. He said she was fluent in Dari.

Abduction fears have risen after 23 South Koreans and two Germans were taken hostage in separate incidents last month in central Afghanistan.

One of the German men was shot to death. The other remains in captivity.

Two of the South Koreans were shot to death, and two were freed. A Taliban spokesman said Saturday that negotiations for their release had failed.

In southern Afghanistan, a NATO soldier was killed escorting a convoy in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, while four Afghan security guards died in a suicide attack.

Violence has risen sharply during the last two months in Afghanistan. This year more than 3,700 people — most of them militants — have died, according to an Associated Press tally of casualty figures provided by Western and Afghan officials.