Death of man in custody of Taliban probed

He might have been an American citizen

War On Terrorism : The World

November 06, 2001|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan is checking the identification documents of a possible American citizen who died in Afghanistan last week in the Taliban's custody.

Officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross received the documents Sunday from the Taliban in Kandahar and turned them over to the U.S. mission for confirmation.

"We're trying to verify the authenticity of the documents, and if so we will attempt to contact the family," said embassy spokesman Mark Wentworth, adding that he did not recognize the name in the documents.

Taliban spokesmen announced Sunday that a man identified as John Bolton of California died of natural causes two weeks after he was arrested in Spin Boldak, near Chaman, on the Pakistani border.

Other reports from Afghanistan have identified the man with a variety of Islamic names. Some say he was a Pakistani-American or Afghan-American traveling with varying identification documents.

He identified himself as a humanitarian relief worker but was arrested on suspicion of spying, Taliban officials said. His health deteriorated in prison, and he died in a Kandahar hospital, they said.

Salam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, criticized United Nations relief agencies, saying their refusal to send non-Afghan staff members into Afghanistan to run assistance programs amounted to playing politics with the lives of needy Afghans.

A U.N. spokeswoman said problems that include harassment of its staff members and lack of security hamper assistance.

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