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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

2 Hostages Begin Fast

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Two of seven Russian airmen held captive by the opposition Taliban group in Afghanistan have begun a protest fast to press for their release, an Afghan news service based in Pakistan said Monday.

The Afghan Islamic Press said the two men began the hunger strike Sunday, but the Taliban Islamic militia holding them and five others at the southern town of Kandahar since Aug. 3 refused to budge. It quoted a Taliban spokesman in Kandahar, Mullah Mohammad Abbas, as saying the hunger strike would not be effective. "There is no hunger strike in Islam," Abbas said.

A previous such strike by one of the Russian prisoners earlier this month produced no result.

The Taliban promised in December to release the airmen before the new year unless more evidence emerged to back claims that Afghans missing from the Soviet occupation in the 1980s were being held by Russia.

But the release was later delayed indefinitely for more talks with Moscow after Russia's then-foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev put off a planned visit to Kandahar.