//Taliban behead Indian hostage 'by accident'

Taliban behead Indian hostage 'by accident'

Nasrat Shoaib, AFP, April 30, 2006

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan —  Police in Afghanistan on Sunday found the headless body of an Indian engineer kidnapped two days before by Taliban militants, a killing that earned swift condemnation from New Delhi.

A Taliban spokesman, Yousuf Ahmadi, said the killing of Surya Narayan, who was working as a contractor for Afghan mobile telephone network Roshan, was unintentional, but officials said his death was no accident.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned what he called the "inhuman" slaying of Narayan, who hailed from the southern Indian city of Hyderabad and was a father of three.

The body of Narayan, who was abducted on Friday in restive Zabul province on the highway linking Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar, was found in the province's Shahjoy district, district police chief Mohammed Mir said.

"This morning, a driver from an area called Karez-e-Hassan, where the Indian engineer was kidnapped, came to us and informed us of a dead body," Mir said. "We went to the area and found the body of the Indian engineer beheaded in a bag. We took the body," he said.

An Afghan interior ministry official accused the Taliban of murder, contradicting the spokesman's claims that Narayan had been killed while trying to escape his captors. "His body was found beheaded … so it cannot be an accident as the Taliban claim," the official said on condition of anonymity. Afghan interior ministry spokesman Mohammed Yousuf Stanizai could not immediately confirm the police findings.

On Saturday, the militants had threatened to kill Narayan unless all Indian nationals and companies left Afghanistan within 24 hours. "The Indian engineer was in a room with one guard, he attacked the guard and punched him, went out of the building running as other mujahideen shot him dead," the Taliban spokesman Ahmadi said.

Ahmadi said the Taliban's council of leaders was "saddened" by the incident, as New Delhi had shown its willingness to negotiate for Narayan's release. "We are sorry – the leading council had decided to extend the deadline for another 24 hours since the Indian side had showed gestures that they were ready to negotiate," he said.

Indian satellite channel CNN-IBN showed footage of Narayan's family in severe shock in Hyderabad after receiving news of his death. His wife Manjula and three children cried inconsolably, surrounded by family members who were trying to comfort them. Singh's spokesman Sanjaya Baru said the Indian prime minister had asked the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh state to take care of Narayan's family.

Several foreign nationals working in security and reconstruction projects in war-ravaged Afghanistan have been kidnapped since the toppling of the Taliban regime in a US-led operation in late 2001. Some kidnappings have been blamed on Taliban militants and some of those abducted have been killed, including a Briton and an Indian national last year.