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Armed men abduct 14 workers demining for the UN

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-05

Armed men abducted 14 Afghan employees of a private mine-clearing company contracted to the United Nations, the Afghan interior ministry said on Sunday. The men were seized on Saturday as they were clearing mines in the eastern province of Paktya.

AFP - Armed men abducted 14 Afghan employees of a private mine clearing company contracted to the United Nations in Afghanistan, the interior ministry said Sunday.

The men, employed by the Mine Detection and Dog Centre (MDC), were seized on Saturday as they were clearing mines in the eastern province Paktya, interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told a press conference.

"Fourteen workers of MDC demining organisation who were busy serving the Afghan nation were kidnapped by unknown gunmen in Tandan area of Gardez pass," he said.

No one claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. Taliban militants as well as criminals have been involved such seizures.

The thousands of men who work to clear Afghanistan of its mines -- a legacy of decades of war -- often work in remote areas, making them regular targets of insurgent and criminal attacks.

Three suspects in the case had been arrested and efforts were under way though influential men in the area to secure their release, Bashary said.

Paktya is on the border with Pakistan, with most frontier provinces suffering from insurgent or other violence.

Afghanistan, which has suffered three decades of war, has the world's largest demining programme employing 8,000 Afghans, The International Campaign to Ban Landmines says.

The UN said last year two-thirds of Afghanistan had been cleared of mines but four million people still lived on land planted with the devices.

Twenty-two employees of the MDC, which has 1,800 staff working across the country, have been killed since 2001, mainly in areas where the Taliban still have influence, the group told AFP last year.

Major military operations have been under way across Afghanistan for weeks to clear insurgent strongholds ahead of the August 20 presidential and provincial council elections.

Helmand province is an important insurgent base and US, British and Danish forces have been moving against the Taliban for weeks.
  

Date created : 2009-07-05