Afghan police search for villagers after mass kidnapping

KANDAHAR (Afghanistan) • Afghan police yesterday launched a search for some 30 villagers still missing two days after a mass kidnapping blamed on Taleban militants in the southern province of Kandahar.

Seventy people were abducted last Friday from their village along the main road in the south and seven of them were found dead the following day alongside the highway from the city of Kandahar to Tarinkot in Uruzgan province.

Around 30 people have been released while 30 others remain missing, Kandahar police spokesman Zia Durrani said.

It remained unclear why the villagers were seized. But some officials said they suspected the Taleban had kidnapped or killed them for suspected cooperation with the Western-backed government which the militants are striving to topple. The insurgents have a heavy presence in Uruzgan.

Yesterday, they denied involvement, while confirming they had attacked police checkpoints in the area. "Our mujahideen killed a number of local police and pro-government militias there, also capturing 17 suspects who were later released after interrogation. We have not killed or kidnapped any civilians," the Taleban said in a statement.

In July, Taleban fighters closed a highway connecting Farah to Herat city in the west, stopping a bus and forcing 16 passengers off it. They shot at least seven of them while the remainder were taken hostage.

Elsewhere in the country, the Taleban yesterday captured a district in the northern province of Faryab after an overnight attack that triggered heavy fighting. There was no word on casualties.

It remained unclear why the villagers were seized. But some officials said they suspected the Taleban had kidnapped or killed them for suspected cooperation with the Western-backed government which the militants are striving to topple.

Local media yesterday also reported that the Taleban had overrun Taywara district in the central province of Ghor, though there was no immediate official confirmation.

There has been a surge in fighting in several northern and southern provinces in recent days, including in Helmand in the south where 16 Afghan police officers were killed by a US air strike last Friday night.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2017, with the headline 'Afghan police search for villagers after mass kidnapping'. Print Edition | Subscribe