KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban on Wednesday released a video of two professors from the American University of Afghanistan who were abducted at gunpoint in Kabul in August, the first public confirmation by the insurgents that they are holding the two Westerners.
The 13-minute video, released months after an unsuccessful Navy SEAL raid in eastern Afghanistan to rescue the professors, shows Timothy Weeks, an Australian, and Kevin King, an American, pleading with their governments to cooperate with the Taliban for the release of insurgent prisoners in exchange for their freedom.
“We have been here for a while and we haven’t heard anything,” said Mr. King, 60. “We ask you to put pressure on the American government and the university to talk more to the Taliban to arrange an exchange.”
A few weeks after the abduction, on Aug. 7, Taliban gunmen launched a coordinated attack on the university’s campus in Kabul as evening classes were underway, killing about a dozen people and forcing the university to close because of security concerns. The release of the hostage video, through the usual Taliban channels, came as university officials were preparing to reopen classes.
The American University issued a statement from its acting president, David Sedney, saying: “We call on the Taliban to release immediately and safely Kevin and Tim and all other hostages. Kevin and Tim came to Afghanistan as teachers, to help Afghanistan. These innocent people have done nothing to harm anyone and need to be reunited with their family, friends and colleagues.”
Directly addressing the two men, he added: “Our thoughts and prayers are with you constantly. We will not rest until you are back safely with us.”
American officials who have knowledge of the unsuccessful raid say the two professors are being held by the Haqqani network, a wing of the Taliban that has long profited from kidnapping. The Haqqanis had also held Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier who was freed in 2014 in a swap for Taliban prisoners that the United States held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Among the Westerners who are also believed to be held by the Haqqanis are a married couple kidnapped south of Kabul in 2012: Joshua Boyle, 36, a Canadian, and Caitlan Coleman, 31, an American. They have had two children while in captivity.
In August, the insurgents released a video of the couple in which they ask the U.S. government to pressure the Afghan authorities into stopping the execution of Taliban prisoners. Anas Haqqani, one of the brothers of the leader of the Haqqani network, is in Afghan custody and is believed to be on death row.
“We have been told that the Afghan government has executed some of their prisoners,’’ Ms. Coleman said in the video, “and that our captors are frightened of the idea of further executions and further death, and that because of their fear they are willing to kill us, willing to kill women, to kill children, to kill whomever in order to get these policies reversed or to take revenge.”
Recently, Jane Larson, a Massachusetts resident, revealed that her 74-year-old husband, Paul Overby, had been abducted two years ago after traveling to Afghanistan to interview the head of Haqqani network. Ms. Larson said in a statement that her husband was abducted in May 2014 when he tried to cross into Pakistan from Khost Province in eastern Afghanistan.