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Video airs of captive aid worker in Afghanistan

A video of an Italian aid worker who was kidnapped nearly two weeks ago in Kabul was broadcast Sunday in Afghanistan.
A video grab released by a private Afghan television station shows Italian aid worker Cantoni who was kidnapped by gunmen in Kabul
An image shown on Afghan television Sunday shows Italian hostage Clementina Cantoni, 32, flanked by gunmen. Cantoni, a worker for the CARE International aid agency, was kidnapped in Kabul on May 16.Reuters TV / X00514
/ Source: The Associated Press

A video of an Italian aid worker who was kidnapped nearly two weeks ago in Kabul was broadcast Sunday on an Afghan television station.

Clementina Cantoni, 32, a worker for CARE International, was shown sitting with two men standing next to her with assault rifles in their hands pointed at her head. Responding to prompts from a man who was not shown on the video, Cantoni identified herself and named her father, her mother and an uncle.

The tape, which was broadcast by independent Tolo TV, then zoomed in on the face of the Italian, who had a brown blanket wrapped around her and a blue scarf over her head. Cantoni spoke quietly on the recording and looked nervous.

Tape date in question
It was not clear when the recording was made. But near the end of the tape, the man who was speaking off-camera asked Cantoni the date. “Today is May 28, Sunday,” she said. The date referred to Saturday and the discrepancy could not be explained.

The TV station did not say how it had obtained the tape.

The Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed the woman on the video was Cantoni.

“The video is reliable. Thus it’s reassuring that it shows that Cantoni is in good health,” ministry spokesman Pasquale Terracciano told The Associated Press in Rome. “The contacts continue.”

He declined to comment when asked to elaborate about how the video ended up in the hands of the Afghan TV.

CARE encouraged but concerned
The aid worker was abducted by armed men on May 16 as she was being driven to her home in the capital.

The director for CARE International in Afghanistan, Paul Barker, said he had seen the video.

“Although we are encouraged to see that Clementina is alive and in relatively good health, we are deeply concerned about her safety and her well-being,” he said. “Once again, we join the people of Afghanistan in calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Clementina.”

'Daughter of Afghanistan'
Government officials could not be reached for comment.

President Hamid Karzai on Friday paid tribute to Cantoni, calling her a “daughter of Afghanistan.”

Posters seeking information about her have been plastered across the city, and Afghan widows who benefited from her aid work have held rallies demanding her release.

Sunday’s broadcast was the second time hostages in Afghanistan have been recorded on video and broadcast on television. It will further reinforce fears that militants or criminals here are copying tactics used in Iraq.

Three U.N. workers who were abducted last year and held for a month before being released were recorded pleading for their freedom on a video that was broadcast by the media.