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Taliban offers exchange for Swiss hostages

An unconfirmed report says the Taliban in Pakistan will release two Swiss tourists they kidnapped at the beginning of July if the United States frees a Pakistani scientist convicted of terrorism.

The Swiss pair were abducted in the southwestern Baluchistan province while travelling across Pakistan in their camper van.

The Associated Press said it spoke to Taliban commander Waliur Rehman on Thursday in South Waziristan, a northwestern tribal region.

Rehman told AP that the Taliban had ordered the kidnapping in order to gain freedom for Aafia Siddiqui, a US-educated woman who is serving 86 years in an American jail for trying to kill US officials in Afghanistan.

Rehman said the Swiss had not been tortured but if Siddiqui was not freed, their fate would be in the hands of a Taliban court.

The Swiss foreign ministry refused comment on the latest development, saying only that it had "taken note" of the information published in the press.

A spokesman referred to a government statement on July 2 which said the authorities had set up a task force which would do everything in its power to free the hostages and ensure no harm came to them. and agencies

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