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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Taliban Move Hostage Airmen

In a surprise step, Afghan opposition guerrillas holding seven Russian airmen captive since August have moved their hostages out of the town of Kandahar to an unknown location, an official said Friday.


Anatoly Volkov, a senior official with the presidential commission on prisoners of war, said the unexpected development followed an agreement in principle on the captives' release reached with the Taliban guerrilla group.


"The Taliban did not inform the Russian side about their latest step and we are all confused about the meaning of it," Volkov told Interfax.


The Russian Foreign Ministry said it could not confirm the report, adding that the government of Pakistan, which is involved in negotiations on the airmen's release, had no such information either, Interfax said.


The Russians are crew members of an Il-76 cargo plane that was reportedly carrying ammunition for the Afghan government from Tirana, Albania, when it was hijacked in the town of Kandahar.


Taliban agreed in December to turn over the hostages and their aircraft to Russia. But the planned release was postponed indefinitely when the Taliban said they had new information on Afghan citizens allegedly held in Russia.


There were conflicting reports on further negotiations.


Officials in Tatarstan, the Russian region where the captives are from, said last week that leading Taliban members had shelved negotiations until the Moslem holy month of Ramadan ends Feb. 19.


Taliban, a fundamentalist Moslem group of former religious seminary students, is fighting the forces of Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani.