The Taliban has threatened to kill one or more of the four hostages, two of whom are Americans, if the Afghanistan government follows through on the planned executions of eleven Taliban and Haqqani prisoners now on death row, Taliban officials told Circa. The execution announcement was made Thursday, a day after suicide bomber detonated a massive truck bomb in Kabul's diplomatic quarters.
ISIS in Afghanistan, known as ISIS Khorasan, claimed responsibility for the attack on their social media sites and its spokesman, Mufti Mansour, confirmed with reporters that it was an ISIS attack. But Afghan intelligence officials suspected the attack that killed 90 people and wounded more than 400 was connected to the Haqqani group, a terror network operating from Pakistan. Eleven Americans were wounded in the bombing.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement Thursday night condemning the suicide attack. Mujahid said Ghani's order to execute the prisoners a day after the attack is motivated by politics "in order to hide its failure" in preventing the attack. Mujahid reiterated, "we once again reject all allegations about involvement of Mujahadeen of the Islamic Emirate in the Kabul incident."
Afghanistan government officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
According to Reuters the National Directorate for Security, similar to the United States CIA, blamed Pakistan's notorious Haqqani terror network. The Haqqani network is affiliated with the Taliban. Afghan officials, and former U.S. military and intelligence officials, believe Haqqani has connections with Pakistan's intelligence service, known as ISI.
Pakistan has long denied the claims.
In a statement to Circa Friday morning, Mujahid warned that the lives of the hostages, which include Caity Coleman of Pennsylvania, who had two young boys in captivity; Joshua Boyle, her Canadian husband; Timothy John Weeks, an Australian who worked at the American University in Afghanistan and his colleague Kevin King, an American teaching at the university, will be at risk if Ghani follows through with the executions.
Circa has done extensive reporting on Coleman and her family over the past year.
For now, the hostages are safe and in good health, Mujahid said.
On Friday, American University in Afghanistan (AUAF), issued an appeal to the Taliban for the lives of King and Weeks.
"The American University of Afghanistan appeals for the immediate and unconditional release of our friends and colleagues, Kevin King and Timothy Weeks," AUAF stated. "Kevin and Tim are innocents. Both came here to teach young Afghans, helping them to contribute to the rebuilding efforts of Afghanistan. We call for their release now, unharmed to join their families, friends, and colleagues."
You can follow Sara A. Carter on Twitter @SaraCarterDC
Sajid Khan contributed to this report from Pakistan, follow him on Twitter @iusajidkhan1