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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Afghans Delay Release of Hostages

The release of four Russian soldiers and one Kazakh officer being held hostage in Afghanistan has been delayed due to the difficulty of landing aircraft in the area, but they will be freed soon, the Afghan ambassador to Moscow said Tuesday.

Ambassador Abdul Wahab, speaking at a press conference in Moscow, said that an aircraft sent into the mountainous region to pick up the four hostages Monday - as expected after a meeting last week between the Tajik and Afghan foreign ministers - was unable to land.

Wahab denied that Afghan troops had seized the Russian and Kazakh troops, part of a four-nation force sent to help secure the troubled Tajik-Afghan border. But he said that the hostages were now under Afghan control, as an Afghan military commander had taken them over from guerrillas after their capture.

The four soldiers were ambushed when patrolling the border last week, as the Afghan and Tajik foreign ministers were negotiating over border clashes in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe.

The hostage-taking embarrassed the Afghan government, which has tried to distance itself from the cross-border attacks by Tajik rebels. Russian and other observers have said that the rebels have been aided by Afghan mujahedin.

Wahab said 750 Afghan civilians have been killed and over 10, 000 homes destroyed by attacks across the border over the past few months.

Wahab refrained from directly criticizing Russia for the shelling and denied allegations by the commander of the Russian border guards that the 29th Afghan army division took part in the hostage-taking, or in any of the recent attacks on the Tajik border.