CONCERN grew for the safety of three UN workers held hostage in Afghanistan yesterday after a man suspected of involvement in their kidnap died in police custody, allegedly as a result of torture.
The dead man, identified only as Kachkool, was arrested as part of Afghan police investigations into the kidnap of Annetta Flanigan, of Northern Ireland, Shqipe Habibi, from Kosovo, and the Filipino diplomat Angelito Nayan, who were seized on Kabul street on Oct 28.
The family of the dead man claim that his body was badly bruised and without fingernails when it was returned to them, following his death on Nov 12.
"Nobody knows if he died because of sickness or because of torture," said a spokesman for the interior ministry. who announced an inquiry into the death.
However, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission said: "The primary finding of our investigation shows there was torture."
Afghan police said yesterday that the dead suspect was a "known criminal" with a history of armed robbery from the Paghman district west of Kabul. The area is notorious for banditry and has been the focus for much of the search effort to locate the missing UN workers.
A radical Taliban splinter group, Jaish al Muslimeen, has repeatedly claimed to be holding the three Westerners. They have demanded the release of 26 Taliban prisoners, some in Guantanamo Bay. However, Afghan authorities said last week that criminal gangs were involved.