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US Accused of Backing Kidnappers of Iranian Soldiers
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Iran said on Saturday that kidnappers who had taken nine Iranian border guards as hostage in the eastern parts of the country were linked to the Taliban and supported by the US, the official IRNA news agency reported.


"The US, which cannot directly encounter Iran, uses such groups to carry out such acts against the country," Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi was quoted as saying.


Pour-Mohammadi said Iran had launched a serious investigation into the kidnapping, expressing hope that the kidnapped soldiers could soon return to the country with the least harm.


Revealing that the kidnappers were under influence of the Taliban, the minister said they had asked the Iranian government to pay ransoms and release some jailed members of their group in exchange for the release of the border guards.


Al-Arabiya, a Dubai-based satellite TV channel, broadcast a videotape on Wednesday that nine Iranian soldiers had been held hostage on the eastern border of the country by an extremist Islamic militant group called "Jundallah" which is active in Pakistan.


The kidnappers warned that the soldiers would be killed if their demands were not met.


Iranian Deputy Interior Minister Ali Janati said on Thursday that the Iranian government would "by no means be blackmailed by the captors," vowing to exploit "all legal and diplomatic means to make the nine kidnapped border guards return home safely."


Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi also termed the kidnapping as a most inhuman act, saying that the foreign ministry had held talks with Pakistani officials to "have the soldiers released soonest and without harm."


(Xinhua News Agency January 9, 2006)


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