Mon, May 19, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Hostages released in Afghanistan

INTELLIGENCE FORCES IN ACTIONA duo of Indian and Nepalese supplying logistics to Afghan police had gone missine on April 21 while traveling along the border with Iran

AFP , HERAT, AFGHANISTAN

Afghan intelligence officials freed early yesterday an Indian and a Nepalese national kidnapped a month ago by unknown militants in western Afghanistan, security officials said.

The men were in good condition and undergoing medical check-ups before flying home after their ordeal, said Sayed Ibrar Hashimi, head of security at a Herat Province police camp where the pair were brought just after dawn.

He identified them as Indian Muhammad Naeem, aged about 40, and Gurong Karna Bahudur, about 55. Both were contracted to supply logistics to Afghan police training camps.

Intelligence forces had located the place where the two were held and raided overnight, provincial intelligence chief Habibullah Habib said.

“We arrested the head of the kidnapping group,” Habib said, adding that efforts would continue to round up other men suspected of involvement.

The pair went missing on April 21 while traveling in Adraskan district, which borders Iran. Their Afghan driver told authorities that gunmen had taken the foreigners but freed him.

The Taliban militia, blamed for scores of such abductions over the past years, never claimed responsibility.

There has been a spike in recent months of kidnappings by criminal gangs who want to extort ransoms and sometimes kill or maim their victims, who are most often Afghans, including children of prominent families.

Hashimi said that he did not believe any ransom was paid to free the Indian and Nepalese and that their release was due to efforts of the intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security.

The Indian national was slightly ill, he said from the camp in Adraskan.

However, “Both are physically fit and mentally fit … as a whole they are feeling well,” Hashimi said.

The pair had said they had not been harmed during their weeks in captivity. It was also unclear who had taken them.

They were expected to fly to Herat later yesterday and then onto Kabul from where they would leave for home.

Afghanistan is trying to rebuild from the ruins of war that remained after a US-led invasion in late 2001 ended the Taliban’s five-year grip on power.

The international community has sent billions of dollars in aid and expertise and thousands of troops, weapons and heavy equipment.

But a Taliban-led insurgency — which has also seen the involvement of fighters from other countries on the battlefield — has been able to grow as other problems have mounted, including an explosion of crime, and in opium and heroin production.

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