'Kidnappers of Canadian scribes seeking ransom'
QUETTA: Taliban commanders claim that an unidentified group has demanded a Rs 2 million rupee ($33,000) ransom for the release of Canadian free-lance journalist who has been reportedly abducted in southern Afghanistan, a Pakistani intelligence officer said on Saturday.

The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Taliban did not reveal the identity of the group that it said was holding Ken Hechtman, who writes for the weekly Montreal Mirror.

The Taliban said they had initially detained Hechtman on Tuesday night in the Afghan town of Spinboldak, but released him the next morning. They maintain Hechtman was kidnapped when he was being driven in a taxi to the nearby border with Pakistan.

Earlier, another Pakistani official said he believed the Taliban was still holding Hechtman.

There was no immediate comment from Canadian diplomats investigating the case in the Pakistani border town of Chaman, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Spinboldak.

Maulana Ameenullah, a Taliban official in Chaman, said on Friday he was willing to help locate Hechtman, 33, who had been in Pakistan and Afghanistan since early October.

His most recent report for the Mirror, from Peshawar, Pakistan, appeared in the Nov. 22 edition. A Nov. 15 article was from Taliban-held territory in Afghanistan.

Eight journalists have been killed since Oct. 7, when the United States launched a military campaign to drive the Taliban from power for harboring Osama Bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
( AP )