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Last Updated: Monday, 1 November, 2004, 07:26 GMT
Video shows UN Afghan hostages
Three people believed to be the UN hostages
The three were helping to organise the presidential poll on 9 October
Three UN workers held hostage by militants in Afghanistan have appeared in a video shown by Arabic TV.

The three appeared unharmed in the video, in which their kidnappers called for the release of prisoners from Afghan jails and Guantanamo Bay.

Filipino Angelito Nayan, Annetta Flanigan from Northern Ireland and Shqipe Habibi from Kosovo were seized on Thursday at gunpoint.

They were in Afghanistan to help organise recent presidential elections.

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Philippines President Gloria Arroyo has called an emergency meeting in Manila to discuss the kidnapping of the the Filipino who is a diplomat, according to the AFP news agency.

The UN in Kabul, confirming that the footage did show the UN workers, has appealed for their release, saying they all needed medical attention.

Afghan authorities arrested several people on Friday and Saturday they believe are linked to the kidnapping.

Lutfullah Mashal, spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, said Afghan authorities were "very hopeful and optimistic".

Mr Mashal said that about 300 "quick reaction" police officers had been deployed to the area where the abductors were believed to be hiding.

We didn't come [to Afghanistan] to do any harm
Annetta Flanigan

In the video footage, the three hostages were shown crouching against a wall beside a masked man.

A man off camera asks the hostages why they have come to Afghanistan.

"There are many organisations that come here and do many things for the Afghan people - build roads, build schools, irrigate fields," a tearful Ms Flanigan replies.

"And we thought that it's also useful to come here in Kabul in Afghanistan - we didn't come to do any harm."

Taleban links

There have been repeated claims that a militant Islamic group, the Army of Muslims (Jaish-e-Muslimeen) is holding the three foreigners.

A French soldier from the Isaf force in Kabul, Afghanistan
Extra patrols have been mounted in Kabul since the kidnappings

Several messages have been released issuing threats to the lives of the hostages unless Afghan prisoners are released and foreign forces withdrawn from Afghanistan. The militants also want an end to UN operations there.

It is not clear when the video was made, although a member of the group said it was given to the TV station, al-Jazeera, at 0900 (0430 GMT) on Sunday.

The video was shown after the group provided evidence it was holding the hostages to the BBC, reading out at least one credit card number that belongs to one of them.

The group is believed to have strong Taleban links.

Elsewhere in the country, US forces have continued to clash with suspected Taleban and other militants, dampening hopes that the relative quiet during the 9 October elections would hold.

In the most serious incident, the US military says its soldiers killed five people and arrested nine others on Thursday near the Pakistani border.

A US spokesman said this followed an operation against what he described as an al-Qaeda facilitator, but he would not say who this individual was.

It is in this region that Osama Bin Laden is believed to be hiding.



FROM OTHER NEWS SITES:
Reuters UK Afghan kidnappers say in talks with U.N - 1 hr ago
Los Angeles TimesKidnappers May Meet U.N. Envoy - 1 hr ago
The Scotsman Afghan group holding Briton offers to negotiate - 8 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited 31.10.04: Afghan militants vow to 'chop up' Irish hostage - 9 hrs ago
MSNBC Afghan kidnappers agree to negotiate - 15 hrs ago
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