Two French aid workers taken hostage in Afghanistan: NGO
Fri Jul 18, 6:28 PM ET
PARIS (AFP) – Two French aid workers have been kidnapped in Afghanistan, Action Against Hunger (Action Contre la Faim – ACF) said Friday in a statement.
The pair — whose identities were not revealed — were kidnapped in the early hours of the morning as they slept in the NGO’s guest house in Nili, in Day Kundi Province, the Paris-based organisation said.
“According to ACF knowledge, the two expatriates are alive,” it stated.
The two aid workers were seized after gunmen overpowered security guards, the NGO said.
“Some gunmen trussed (up) the ACF guards in front of the guest house and then went into the house. They kidnapped the two expatriates present in the house at that time, and ran away with several vehicles,” it said.
It said it was doing its utmost “to (secure) their release as rapidly as possible and in the best conditions” adding that a crisis group has been set up in Kabul and Paris to help win their release.
The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was “mobilising, in Paris as well as Kabul, to obtain their release as quickly as possible.”
It said that the “targeting of humanitarian personnel is totally unacceptable” while promising “discretion” in its efforts to free the duo.
The governor of Day Kundi, about 300 kilometres (190 miles) west of Kabul, said the pair were snatched in unclear circumstances.
“The two aid workers working for Action Against Hunger were kidnapped by the enemies of Afghan government,” governor Sultan Ali Uruzgani told AFP.
The government uses the label “enemies of Afghanistan” to refer to insurgents, including from the extremist Taliban who were in government between 1996 and 2001 and are trying to overthrow the new administration.
The Taliban could not immediately be reached to comment on the kidnapping. The hardliners have been involved in a series of kidnappings in Afghanistan but so have criminal gangs seeking ransom.
A French businessman was abducted in southern Afghanistan in May and freed nearly a month later after a ransom was paid, according to Afghan officials.
ACF said it had suspended all its relief operations in Afghanistan and condemned the kidnapping, saying it affected the integrity of humanitarian organisations and threatened assistance to civilians.
France has 1,600 troops serving in a NATO-led force in Afghanistan that is fighting the Taliban insurgency and is planning to deploy more troops in the coming months.
Last year, two French humanitarian workers for the Terre D’Enfance (A World For Our Children) relief group were released, several weeks after their abduction amid much speculation that a ransom had been paid.