GARDEZ: Unidentified gunmen kidnapped 18 Afghan deminers on Thursday in southeastern Khost province, the provincial police chief said, the second abduction of a mine clearing team this month.
The group from the Kabul-based Mine Detection Centre were travelling in Musa Khel district when they were stopped by a group of gunmen and then seized, said Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai. "They had gone to the area on the request of the elders to clear mines from their village," Ishaqzai told Reuters. He did not have further details about the abductions.
The province lies along the border with Pakistan and Taliban-led insurgents are active there, but a spokesman for the Taliban said he was not aware of the incident. Earlier this month, unidentified gunmen abducted another mine clearance team from another agency in eastern Nangarhar, but released them unharmed later. Abduction has become a lucrative business both for the militants and criminal groups in recent years in Afghanistan where violence has reached its highest level since the overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001.