60 Afghan de-miners free

2014-01-21 17:55
 (File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Herat - An armed group briefly held about 60 Afghan de-miners hostage in the northwest of the country on Tuesday before an operation by security forces freed them, officials said.

The mine clearance workers, employed by the British Halo Trust, were taken by gunmen from a camp in the Pashtun Zarghun district of Herat province early in the morning.

It was not known whether the kidnappers belonged to an insurgent group, but Halo said they were not Taliban members.

"All the abducted de-miners have now been freed", Sediq Sediqqi, spokesperson for the interior ministry, told AFP.

"Police surrounded the mountain where they were being held, and after an operation, managed to free them all. We are still gathering facts on the abductors."

Not Taliban insurgents

Abdul Hamid Hamidi, deputy police chief of Herat province, confirmed the release.

"We launched an operation against the kidnappers in the mountains and freed the hostages", he said.

All the de-miners were Afghans and most were from the local area.

A spokesperson for the Halo Trust also said the men had been freed, adding that the abductors were not Taliban insurgents and no claim of responsibility had been received.

The Halo Trust has about 3 000 workers in Afghanistan, which is one of the most mined countries in the world after suffering decades of conflict.

The organisation, which has worked in Afghanistan since 1988 despite civil war and the hermetic Taliban era, shot to fame in 1997 when Diana, Princess of Wales, visited a minefield that Halo staffs were clearing in Angola.

Her son Prince Harry is a keen supporter of the Trust, as is actress Angelina Jolie, who is one of its trustees.

Halo says it is the world's oldest and largest humanitarian landmine clearance organisation, with projects in countries including Angola, Cambodia and the Ivory Coast.

Read more on:    taliban  |  afghanistan
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