Aid workers abducted by Afghans

2012-05-23 17:06

Kabul - Two foreign women working for an international aid organisation have been kidnapped in Afghanistan, along with three Afghan colleagues, a police official said on Wednesday.

The two foreign workers were taken by unknown armed men in the usually peaceful north-eastern province of Badakhshan, he added.

"The kidnappers took them to a mountainous area in Shahr-e-Bozorg district. We are close to their whereabouts and we will try to release them safely and soon," he said.

"Police in three neighbouring districts are on high alert and we are in contact with the local elders to help with the search," he added.

No group has taken responsibility for the kidnapping and no demands have yet been made, officials said. A criminal gang was suspected however, rather than the Taliban.

The five-strong aid team worked for the Switzerland-based aid organisation Med Air, and had been travelling from the district of Yaftal to a village in Ragestan when armed men stopped their vehicle, a spokesperson for the governor of Badakhshan said.

Med Air works in crisis management and rehabilitation. In Afghanistan, they have focused on child nutrition, water and sanitation, largely in the two provinces of Bamiyan and Badakhshan - both relatively safe areas.

But Shahr-e-Bozorg, the district in Badakhshan where the hostages are thought to have been taken, did see some insurgent activity last year, officials said.

Foreign aid workers and journalists have been targeted by the Taliban or related insurgent groups in Afghanistan in the past.

In 2010 ten aid workers, including six US nationals, a German and a Briton, from the International Assistance Mission were killed in Badakhshan.

In the same year, a British aid worker was kidnapped by Taliban militants in the eastern province of Kunar. She was killed during a rescue operation by coalition troops when a soldier threw a hand grenade inside the house where she was being held.