American, Australian abducted by gunmen in Afghanistan
Kabul, Afghanistan — Five gunmen wearing Afghan military uniforms have abducted an American and an Australian in the Afghan capital, Kabul, a security official said Monday.
The two foreigners were taken from their SUV while driving on Sunday night on a main road near the American University of Afghanistan, according to Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry. They are believed to be employees of the university and were traveling between the university and their residence, he said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the abduction.
Sediqqi also added that initial reports show that up to five armed men stopped the foreigners’ vehicle and carried out the kidnapping. The two abducted are both men, he said. He did not reveal any more details except to say that an investigation is underway.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a brief statement confirming the kidnapping of an American citizen but gave no further details “due to privacy concerns.”
“U.S. Embassy security officials are working closely with Afghan law enforcement and security colleagues and AUAF to assist in the investigation into the kidnapping,” it said, referring to the American University of Afghanistan.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also issued a statement confirming “the apparent kidnapping of an Australian in Kabul.” No further details were released, also for privacy concerns.
“We continue to advise Australians not to travel to Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation, including the serious threat of kidnapping,” it said.
Senior staff at the university in Kabul could not immediately be reached for comment.
Kidnappings are not uncommon in Afghanistan. Three other foreigners who were kidnapped in Kabul over the past year have all been released, including an Indian woman, Judith D’Souza who was freed last month after being held for more than a month.
An Australian woman, Kerry Jane Wilson, was abducted in the eastern city of Jalalabad in April. Her whereabouts are unknown.
Sediqqi said that kidnappers in all the Kabul cases, including Monday’s, had been wearing military uniforms, establishing a pattern and hinting at some form of organized gang activity.
Most of the thousands of foreigners living and working in Kabul are largely confined to their embassies or, in the case of those working for the United Nations or other non-government organizations, to their residential compounds, with limited movement permitted.
The abductions heighten the risk for the few foreigners, including journalists, who move with relative freedom across the Afghan capital in order to do their work.
Residents of the capital complain that crime has risen in recent months, especially robbery and car theft. The apparent rise coincides with an economic crisis as the government has not been able to create jobs or stimulate growth.
President Ashraf Ghani took office in 2014 promising jobs and peace, but has provided neither as the war with the Taliban grinds on for its 15th year.
The police, however, deny a spike in crime.
On Sunday, a court in the western city of Herat sentenced 14 people to death for kidnapping and murder. Another three, including a woman, were handed prison sentences of between six and 20 years.