Germany's foreign ministry Friday played down reports that the Taliban were behind the abduction of two German engineers and were demanding the withdrawal of all Germans from Afghanistan in return for their release.
Have the Germans really been kidnapped by Taliban?
Spokesman Martin Jäger referred to "contradictions" between two separate claims that came more than a day after the two civil engineers were abducted on Wednesday some 100 kilometers (62 miles) south-west of Kabul in Wardak province.
The foreign ministry crisis team working on the case had "taken cognizance" of the reports Jäger said.
According to reports in Germany, the unnamed engineers were working for a Kabul-based company when they were seized while traveling with an Afghan driver and four police officials.
On Thursday, the Taliban's purported spokesman, Zabeeullah Mujahid, said that they were not aware of any foreign nationals seized by their fighters.
"I have contacted all our forces in the area but no one knows about it," Mujahid told DPA news service by phone from an undisclosed location.
Taliban in control?
But another Taliban spokesman, Yousuf Ahmadi, told AFP news service that his group had taken control of the Germans.
"The Taliban have decided to free the German nationals if German troops pull out of Afghanistan and all the Taliban prisoners in Afghan prisons are released," he said, adding that the Germans were "alive and in good health."
The governor of neighboring Ghazni province, Mirajuddin Pathan, also said that the German engineers had "definitely been kidnapped by the Taliban."
South Koreans abducted
Ahmadi also said that the Taliban had abducted 18 South Koreans -- three men and 15 women. The Christian evangelical group was traveling through southern Afghanistan.
"They are with the Taliban now and they are safe and sound," the Taliban said. "They are under investigation and once the investigation is over, the Taliban leading council will make a final decision about their fate."
Some 3,000 German troops are deployed in Afghanistan as part of a NATO-led peacekeeping and reconstruction mission.