Five aid workers, including two Western female doctors, have been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in northeastern Afghanistan, police and the provincial governor's office said on Wednesday.
“Yesterday evening, five health workers, including two female foreign nationals, were kidnapped in the Yaftal area,” the provincial governor's spokesman, Abdul Mahroof Rasikh, said.
The incident was confirmed by the head of the Badakhshan provincial council, Zabihullah Attiq, who said the group was “snatched at gunpoint by seven armed men”.
The aid workers working for a foreign-based aid group were making their way from central Faizabad city and were abducted on Tuesday in Yaftal-e Bala district, said Abdul Marouf Rasikh, a spokesman for the governor of Badakhshan province.
Police in the area, which is not a focus for Afghan insurgents but which is home to groups of mainly criminal gunmen, said the aid workers had been visiting a health clinic in Yawan district, where the road had been destroyed by floods.
“They were travelling by donkey. Two foreign women and their Afghan translators were kidnapped and we have started a search operation,” said Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, police spokesman for northern Afghanistan.
NATO-led forces said they had no information on the kidnapping, while NGOs operating in the area declined to comment citing the sensitivity of the issue.
The kidnapping of foreigners has become relatively common in parts of Afghanistan since U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the former Taliban government in 2001, heralding a 10-year anti-insurgent war.