Taliban militants claimed they shot dead an Indian hostage in southern Afghanistan Sunday as he tried to escape, in a killing condemned by India's premier.
An Afghan highway police patrol found a headless body wearing Western clothes Sunday near the Hassan Kariez district of Zabul, the same area where Indian telecommunications engineer K. Suryanarayana was abducted Friday.
"We are investigating whether the body is that of the Indian hostage," Zabul provincial police chief, Ghulam Nabi Malakhail, told The Associated Press.
But in India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh confirmed the engineer's killing, the second of an Indian hostage in southern Afghanistan within the past six months.
"The Prime Minister condemns the killing of an Indian civilian in Afghanistan and expresses his grief and sorrow for the family," said Singh's spokesman Sanjay Baru. "The prime minister calls on the nation to remain unified in the face of this terrorism."
Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, who releases regular statements on behalf of outlawed Taliban fighters, said militants shot the Indian after he tried to escape and fought with his captors.
Ahmadi issued a threat a day earlier saying all Indians must leave Afghanistan by 6 p.m. Sunday or Suryanarayana would be executed.
The Indian Embassy sent a team, accompanied by Afghan officials and co-workers of Suryanarayana, to Zabul to investigate whether the beheaded body was that of the Indian hostage, Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood said.
Grief swept through Suryanarayana's home in Hyderabad as news arrived that he may have been killed.
His wife, Manjula, collapsed on seeing reports of the body's discovery, while her three children and dozens of well-wishers wailed and cried - many of them clutching pictures of the missing engineer.
"He is the only son of his old parents. He has not done any harm to anybody," Manjula said. "My family will be grateful to them if they release him safely. We do not want anything else."
Andhra Pradesh state Chief Minister Y. S. Rajsekhara Reddy met with Suryanarayana's family early Sunday and promised to personally telephone Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who visited Hyderabad during a trip to India earlier this month.
Suryanarayana, aged in his early 40s, had been employed in Afghanistan since January by a Bahrain-based company, al-Moayed. The company has been contracted by an Afghan mobile phone company, Roshan, to expand its mobile phone network across volatile provinces in southern Afghanistan.
His kidnapping is the first since four Macedonians of Albanian descent were kidnapped and killed in March, purportedly by Taliban militants.
The Taliban abducted and killed another Indian in November. Truck driver Maniappan Raman Kutty's almost decapitated body was dumped in another volatile southern province, Nimroz.
By Noor Khan
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