Afghans hunt for abducted British aid worker
Security forces Monday stepped up the hunt for a British woman and three Afghans reportedly working for a US development group who were kidnapped in eastern Afghanistan, police said.
The woman is reportedly in her 30s and had spent several years working in Afghanistan. She is thought to have previously worked for the United Nations.
The BBC and Sky News reported that the woman was working for US development group DAI, and that she was seized along with three local staff members when their two-vehicle convoy was attacked in Kunar province.
A senior security official told the BBC that insurgents took the group away into nearby mountains following the attack on Sunday, and the area was being searched with the help of tribal elders.
Khalilullah Ziayee, the Kunar provincial police chief, said his force had launched a search operation for the aid worker and her Afghan colleagues.
"They were on their way from (eastern town) Jalalabad to Kunar province in two Corolla cars," he told AFP.
"We have received reports that the cars were stopped by Taliban... and one British and three Afghans were taken away. We are searching for them."
British newspaper reports said police chased after the kidnappers and there was a brief firefight, but they managed to get away.
A spokesman for the Taliban, the militant group leading a nine-year insurgency and responsible for abductions in the past, denied involvement.
"We are not aware of the British woman kidnapping... We're not aware of it," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told AFP by telephone from an unknown location.
Criminal groups and insurgents have kidnapped several dozen foreigners since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime in Kabul.
"We can confirm a British national has been abducted in Afghanistan," a spokeswoman for the British foreign ministry in London said.
"We are working closely with all the relevant local authorities. We are also in touch with the family and are providing consular assistance."
DAI spokesman Steven O'Connor told the Daily Mail that resolving the incident was their "absolute first priority".
"The woman who appears to have been kidnapped is one of our veterans. She is a complete professional and has many years of experience."
NATO's International Security Assistance Force, which has tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan trying to put down the Taliban insurgency, said it was willing to provide assistance to recover the missing people.
"If we are asked to provide support, we'll certainly do (so)," an ISAF spokeswoman told AFP, refusing to comment when asked if such a request had already been made.
In August a 36-year-old British doctor, Karen Woo, was shot dead along with seven other foreign medical aid workers in the northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan. Two Afghans were also killed in the attack.
© 2010 AFP