Kidnappers release 118 Afghan workers, 35 still held

Other News Materials 27 September 2008 11:05 (UTC +04:00)

Afghan officials said Saturday they were trying to secure the release of 35 construction workers after their kidnappers released 118 labourers in western Afghanistan, reported dpa.

The militants who identified themselves as members of Taliban insurgents abducted 153 workers on their way to a construction site in Bala Bulok district of western Farah province on Sunday.

Three of the workers were released on Tuesday.

The workers were hired by a US-funded Afghan firm building an army base in the region. The base, which will house up to 2,000 soldiers once complete, is one of several that the US military is building in the country.

"The abductors released 118 kidnapped workers on Friday after the tribal elders convinced them that they were innocent labourers," provincial governor Roh-ul-Amin said.

Amin said the government refrained from using military means because it did not want to risk the lives of the abducted men.

"We are working along with tribal elders to secure the release of other workers," Amin said.

Berna Karimi, deputy director for independent local governance department, which oversees the works of provincial authorities, also said that efforts were underway for the safe release of the remaining workers.

The militants' purported spokesman in the province, Mullah Wakil, confirmed the release.

"We kidnapped the workers to send a message to other people that they should not work for foreigners or their puppet-government," he said.

He said the rest of the victims would be released "once we are sure that they were only workers. The released 118 workers went through the same process."

Taliban's chief spokesmen had denied involvement in the kidnapping case.

Kidnapping for ransom or exchange for their jailed comrades has become part of the rebel campaign to weaken the Western-backed Afghan government.

But kidnapping for ransom has also become a common business for criminal gangs, who enjoy impunity due to lack of security in the country.