Thursday, October 28, 2004

3 taken in Kabul

Three foreign election workers abducted in Kabul:

Armed men kidnapped three foreign election workers as they drove in a white sport utility vehicle in the Afghan capital on Thursday, the United Nations and Afghan officials said.

An election official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the victims were all women and were believed to include one Irish citizen and one Croatian.

U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva confirmed the abductions but declined to identify the victims or give their nationalities.

The motive for the attack was not clear, but Taliban rebels have in the past kidnapped Westerners, and the U.S. Embassy issued a warning earlier this month that abductions might be attempted surrounding the October 9 presidential vote.

Abdul Hadi Qasemi, an Afghan working for U.N. security, said the three were stopped and abducted by five gunmen. He said the driver of the U.N. car was also missing.

On Thursday afternoon, U.N. security staff ringed the white vehicle, found on a dusty street near an office of the joint U.N.-Afghan electoral body set up to oversee the presidential vote.

The car, clearly marked with the world body's initials, had its doors locked; there was no sign of any struggle.

The three were driven away in a dark-colored four-wheel drive vehicle in the direction of Paghman, a district in the west of Kabul province that is considered rife with banditry, said Abdul Jamil, head of the city police's criminal department, citing witness accounts.

Police said officers manning checkpoints around the city and in neighboring provinces were alerted to check the identity of any foreigners passing their posts.

Two NATO helicopter gunships were circling over the city. NATO armed vehicles were stationed on street corners in the city's Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, where many aid workers and diplomats live.

Afghan security forces were stopping cars and questioning passengers.

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