AFP: Twelve Iranian engineers kidnapped in western Afghanistan have been released along with three Afghan colleagues, police and officials in the two countries said on Wednesday.
HERAT, April 20, 2011 (AFP) – Twelve Iranian engineers kidnapped in western Afghanistan have been released along with three Afghan colleagues, police and officials in the two countries said on Wednesday.
The men, who were working on a road construction project, were snatched at gunpoint on Monday in the Post-i-Road district of Farah province, which borders Iran.
“All the 12 hostages were released at around 5:00 pm (1230 GMT) today. They were released with the help of local elders who acted as mediators,” said Farah police chief Sayed Mohammad Roshandel. “They are in a safe place in Farah.”
He later added that three Afghans who were kidnapped alongside them had also been freed.
Officials had previously indicated that five Afghans were abducted but Roshandel said there were only three.
Iran’s state news agency IRNA also quoted the foreign ministry in Tehran confirming the news.
“Fortunately, due to the efforts of the foreign ministry and our embassy… Iranian nationals were released and transferred to a safe place,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying.
Mehmanparast had said on Monday that the Afghan embassy in Tehran was pressing the “authorities in Kabul to carry out their responsibility with regard to Iranian nationals and take firm and swift action on this abduction.”
Farah is a remote province and faces significant Taliban activity.
Taliban spokesman Yusuf Ahmadi told AFP Monday that the insurgent group had no knowledge of the most recent kidnapping, although the militants have been responsible for similar abductions in the past.
The abduction was the latest in a series of kidnappings of Afghans and foreigners in Afghanistan since a US-led invasion ousted Taliban in 2001.
Most hostages are released unharmed following negotiations, but last December a Bangladeshi road worker was killed during a kidnapping in northern Afghanistan. Five of his colleagues remain in captivity.
Two French journalists from state-owned channel France 3 remain in captivity after being kidnapped east of Kabul in December 2009 by suspected Islamist insurgents.
There are around 130,000 international troops in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban and other insurgents.