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Gunmen abduct 30 Shia Muslims in Afghanistan

24 February 2015 14:45

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Masked gunmen have kidnapped 30 Shia Muslims who were traveling on two buses in central Afghanistan, officials say.

The incident occurred in Zabul Province on the road between the western city of Herat and the capital, Kabul, on Monday evening.

The kidnapped individuals were men from the Hazara ethnic group, which is often targeted by militants in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.

“Our driver saw a group of masked men in Afghan army uniform signaling him and he thought they were soldiers so he stopped,” said Nasir Ahmad, an official with the Ghazni Paima bus company, adding, “The gunmen took 30 Hazaras away with them.”

Ahmad further noted that the abductors took only the men on the two buses and freed the women and children accompanying them.

Police forces were “doing everything to ensure their safe release,” Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the kidnappings, but abductions for ransom regularly happen in Afghanistan by bandits, local militias, and the Taliban militants.

Fears are recently growing over the influence of the Takfiri ISIL terrorist group in war-torn Afghanistan, which has witnessed long years of instability despite the presence of thousands of US-led troops.

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The military offensive removed the Taliban from power, but insecurity continues across the country.

The US-led combat mission in Afghanistan ended on December 31, 2014. However, at least 13,500 foreign forces, mainly from the United States, have remained in the country in what the US is calling a support mission.

The US-led NATO says the forces will focus mainly on counterterrorism and training Afghan soldiers and policemen.

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