'Criminals' behind Afghan kidnap

2010-10-26 13:27

Kunduz - Security forces stepped up the hunt on Tuesday for a Dutch aid worker and his Afghan driver believed to have been abducted by criminals in northern Afghanistan, police said.

The pair was snatched at gunpoint while driving through remote Takhar province en route to neighbouring Kunduz on Monday.

The aid worker was the second kidnapped while travelling by road through rural Afghanistan in a month. The first, British woman Linda Norgrove, was killed during a US rescue attempt and her funeral is on Tuesday.

"Efforts are under way to find out where the Dutch aid worker has been taken," said Takhar police chief Shah Jahan Noori.

The pair were travelling in a private car when they were stopped by armed men and kidnapped, Afghan officials said.

Criminal gangs

"He has been kidnapped by criminal groups. The area where he has been abducted is where criminal groups operate," said Noori.

Most abductions of foreigners in Afghanistan are carried out by criminal gangs, who then sell their hostages to Taliban insurgents fighting against the Western-backed government and foreign troops.

But Afghan interior ministry spokesperson Zemarai Bashary said it was "too soon" to talk about who was responsible for the abduction.

"At this stage we don't know," he said.

The Dutch citizen was kidnapped in the Durahi Bangi area between Takhar and Kunduz, and Bashary said police were not informed of the pair's travel plans.

"Police have conducted an investigation into the incident. Police were not informed in advance about his movements in the area," he said.

The Dutch government confirmed the kidnapping. Foreign ministry spokesperson Christoph Prommersberger said the Dutch embassy in Kabul was in contact with Afghan authorities.

Rescue attempt

"Where necessary and possible, we will support Afghanistan in bringing this matter to a positive conclusion," he said.

Criminal groups and insurgents have kidnapped several dozen foreigners since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime in Kabul. The majority are released safe and well.

Norgrove was kidnapped with three Afghan colleagues on September 26 and died of "fragment injuries" to her head and chest during a rescue attempt involving the elite US Navy Seals earlier this month.