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4 More Kidnappings In Afghanistan

As Afghan president Hamid Karzai and key aides huddled in New York with other world leaders in town for the United Nations meeting and former President Clinton's Global Initiative summit, discussing problems and solutions, there were fast-moving developments in his still embattled homeland.

Word came Thursday morning that two Red Cross workers last month helped free 19 South Korean hostages were kidnapped themselves Wednesday - along with their two Afghan drivers - while trying to negotiate with militants on behalf of a German hostage.

Also Wednesday, in another incident, two Danish soldiers were killed and a third wounded in what their military said was a clash with Taliban fighters in Upper Geresk Valley in Helmand province.

Taliban watchers were in a flurry Thursday morning as the Afghan government reported it had captured the Taliban's best known spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi - a report he later denied, in a call to an AP reporter who recognized his voice.

"I don't know if they arrested some innocent villager with the same name," said Ahmadi, adding the government often claims to have killed or arrested Taliban leaders in reports later found to be false.

An Afghan government official then said someone with Ahmadi's name was arrested, but added that it is possible that captive just has the same name as the Taliban spokesman.

Thursday, briefing reporters on the kidnapping, an Afghan official said the two foreigners from the International Committee of the Red Cross were snatched Wednesday with their two Afghan drivers while in the Salar district of Wardak province in central Afghanistan to try to secure the freedom of a German hostage who was abducted in July.

The number of kidnappings spiked this year after the Taliban secured the release of five insurgent prisoners in exchange for a captive Italian journalist in March. Critics of the swap said it would encourage more abductions.

The South Korean hostage crisis was another windfall for Taliban militants, winning them face-to-face talks with South Korean government delegates.

Militants kidnapped 23 South Koreans on July 19th in Ghazni province as they traveled by bus on a dangerous road from Kabul to volatile Kandahar in the south. Two hostages were killed; the rest were released after weeks of negotiations between the Taliban and the Korean delegation.

The talks were held at the ICRC office in Ghazni, and ICRC officials drove to pick up the South Koreans after they were released.

The German engineer, Rudolf Blechschmidt, was abducted one day before the Koreans. It is believed that he was initially taken by criminals in Wardak, then later handed over to the Taliban.

Blechschmidt is one of two German engineers and five Afghans who were snatched together. The other German was found dead of gunshot wounds on July 21, while one of the Afghans managed to escape.