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German national kidnapped in Afghanistan: officials

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December 17, 2007

HERAT, Afghanistan (AFP) – A German man who has settled in Afghanistan was kidnapped in the west of the country but it was not known immediately if the Taliban were responsible, officials said on Monday.

The man, who officials said was a convert to Islam married to an Afghan woman, was kidnapped Sunday in the western province of Herat, said senior police official Ali Khan Husseinzada.

German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung identified the captive as Harald Kleber, 42. Afghan officials said he was locally known by his Muslim name, Abdul Rahman.

“He was going to his father-in-law’s home. Along the road he was kidnapped by four unknown armed men,” Husseinzada told AFP.

“His family alerted the police,” he said, adding that the man was alone when abducted.

“Our security forces in Herat are searching for him,” said foreign ministry spokesman Sultan Ahmad Baheen.

A local police official, Ghulam Farooq Majroh, told AFP that the man converted to Islam, married an Afghan widow and has two children.

“We’re not aware of any political activity on his part thus far. He has obtained Afghan citizenship,” Majroh said.

Afghan Trade and Industry Minister Amin Farhang told a German newspaper, the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung, that he knew Kleber and was saddened to hear that he had been kidnapped.

“I am personally very shocked that Harald Kleber has apparently been the victim of a kidnapping. (He) is a good Muslim, a great aid worker and a friend of the Afghan people,” the daily reports in its Tuesday edition.

In Germany, Aiman Mazyek of the humanitarian organisation Gruenhelme (Green Helmets) said the kidnapped man worked as a carpenter for the group in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004.

The man remained in the country afterwards to “pursue his private life there,” he said. “We are very shocked and alarmed.”

Mazyek said the Gruenhelme had earlier been told that their former colleague’s wife and child had also been abducted but that this information turned out to be false.

“We have received new information that our former co-worker is the only one who was taken. We were told shots were fired during the abduction,” he said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned the kidnapping, German daily Bild reported in an early excerpt from its Tuesday edition.

“Criminal acts like these are unacceptable to us,” he told the newspaper.

A German foreign ministry spokeswoman said the government was looking into the matter.

“The circumstances around this kidnapping are troublesome,” said a Western police source who asked not to be named.

Afghan officials said it was not yet known who might have been behind the kidnapping but most such abductions have in the past been blamed on the Taliban.

The hardline Islamic movement, the main militant group in the country, are waging an increasingly bloody insurgency which, besides attacking security forces, includes the kidnapping of foreign nationals.

It is the fifth abduction of a German national in Afghanistan this year.

A German engineer kidnapped by the Taliban was freed in October along with five Afghans in exchange for five Taliban prisoners after being held hostage for three months.

Another German hostage was shot dead by kidnappers after being seized in July.

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Written by afghandevnews

December 18, 2007 at 6:14 am

Posted in Security

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