Afghan authorities search for kidnapped Frenchmen
The Taliban denies capturing the two aid workers from The Action Against Hunger seized from their guest house on Friday in the central province of Day Kundi.21 July 2008
GHAZNI - Authorities were Saturday searching for two French aid workers kidnapped in central Afghanistan, but the Taliban denied capturing them.
The Action Against Hunger (Action Contre la Faim) workers were taken from their guest house in the early hours of Friday in the central province of Day Kundi, their Paris-based organisation has said.
"We have no news on their fate," provincial governor Sultan Ali Uruzgani told AFP.
"Our security forces have been searching for them."
The interior ministry in the capital Kabul said it did not know who had taken them.
"Day Kundi does not see a strong infiltration of insurgents and terrorists," ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told AFP.
The Taliban, waging an insurgency against the government of President Hamid Karzai, have been involved in a series of kidnappings in Afghanistan, as have criminal gangs seeking ransom.
A spokesman for the militant group, Zabihullah Mujahed, denied the Taliban had the French nationals.
There are several rebel groups operating in Afghanistan while crime has shot up since the Taliban government was overthrown in a US-led invasion in late 2001 for harbouring Al-Qaeda.
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the abduction last week of an Afghan senator 70 kilometres outside of Kabul. They have said they would free him in exchange for the release from jail of some of their men.
But they have denied involvement in the kidnapping near the western city of Herat last week of two Turkish nationals working for a construction company.
Afghan police have said a German national abducted near the city in mid-December is believed to have been killed after a ransom was not paid for his release.
Action Against Hunger has projects in Day Kundi, about 300 kilometres east of the capital, to improve access to food and water and sanitation, according to their website. The province is one of the poorest in the country.
The organisation has only 10 expatriate staff in Afghanistan. It suspended its relief operations in the country after the abductions.
A French businessman was kidnapped in Afghanistan in May, apparently by Taliban militants, and released about a month later after a ransom was paid, according to Afghan officials.
In 2007, two French humanitarian workers for the Terre D'Enfance (A World For Our Children) relief group were abducted and passed to the Taliban. They were released weeks later amid speculation that a ransom was paid.
[AFP / Expatica]