An American professor currently being held hostage by Taliban jihadists in Afghanistan is seriously ill and needs immediate treatment, senior Taliban officials confirmed on Monday.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that King, who was taken as a hostage in August 2016 alongside his Australian colleague Timothy Week while working as a teacher at the American University of Afghanistan, was suffering from “dangerous” heart disease and kidney problem.
“His illness has intensified, his feet have swollen and sometimes he becomes unconscious and his condition worsens every day,” Mujahid said in a statement. “We have tried to treat him time to time but we do not have medical facilities as we are in a war situation.”
“If [the U.S.] insists on delaying this matter and the illness of Kevin King becomes incurable, or he loses his life, the Islamic Emirate will not be held responsible,” the statement added, referring to the Taliban by its preferred name.
The last evidence of the pair’s condition appeared in January when the Taliban published a video of both men looking disheveled and visibly distraught, pleading with then President-elect Donald Trump to negotiate their release.
“The Taliban has been very patient … Donald Trump, sir, I ask you please. This is in your hands. I ask you, please, to negotiate with the Taliban. If you do not negotiate with them, we will be killed,” Weekes said. “I have asked Obama and now I ask you.”
The Taliban have not specified an amount of money but, instead, are seeking a prisoner exchange.
“We just ask that you put pressure on the government to negotiate with the Taliban and come to an agreement to exchange us … for some prisoners that they have in Bagram,” King said.
“They look after us here and they treat us well,” Weekes added. “We eat what they eat.”
Western officials believe the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani group are currently keeping the men hostage, as it has done in the past to Westerners. Shortly after the men were taken, officials made an unsuccessful rescue attempt in eastern Afghanistan.
This month, Pakistani security forces successfully rescued Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman, a Canadian-American couple held hostage for five years, along three young children born in captivity. After his release, Boyle accused his kidnappers of murdering his infant daughter and raping his wife in “retaliation for my repeated refusal to accept an offer that the miscreant of the Haqqani network had made to me.”