More than 60 deminers briefly seized in
mass Afghan kidnapping
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[January 21, 2014]
By Dylan Welch
KABUL (Reuters) — Unknown gunmen on
Tuesday briefly seized more than 60 Afghan workers clearing Soviet-era
anti-tank mines in western Herat province, the largest mass kidnapping
undertaken in an economically important area now beset by security
All the deminers were released within hours of being taken away
following negotiations between local elders and the kidnappers,
Farid Homayoun, country director of the Halo Trust demining company,
Herat, which borders Iran, has long been plagued by kidnappings. But
a sharp downturn in security in the traditionally safe province
would be a worrying sign ahead of the departure of most foreign
forces by the end of this year.
The workers arrived in the morning at a village in Pashtun Zarghun
district to begin clearing anti-tank mines dating from the 10-year
Soviet occupation of the 1980s. They were forced to drive to a
second village and marched off towards nearby mountains.
No one claimed responsibility for the incident.
A small group of deminers was held for a week by Taliban fighters in
more volatile southern Kandahar district in April last year before
In Herat, a commercial hub, kidnappers have generally targeted rich
business people or their families, with residents staging strikes
and protests to draw attention to the issue.
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Bombings and insurgent attacks had been infrequent in Herat until
recently, but security has deteriorated sharply in recent months.
Residents told Reuters it had become dangerous to travel through
districts bordering the provinces of Farah and Baghdis.
(Additional reporting by Jessica Donati and Hamid Shalizi;
by Dylan Welch; editing by Ron Popeski)
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