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More than 60 deminers seized in mass Afghan kidnapping

22 January, 2014

KABUL: Unknown gunmen on Tuesday seized more than 60 Afghan workers clearing Soviet-era anti-tank mines in western Herat province, the largest mass kidnapping undertaken in an economically important area now beset by security problems.

Herat, which borders Iran, has long been plagued by kidnappings. But a sharp downturn in security in the traditionally safe province would be a worrying sign ahead of the departure of most foreign forces by the end of this year.

More than 60 Afghans working for the British demining group The Halo Trust had arrived at a village in Pashtun Zarghun district before 8 a.m. to begin clearing anti-tank mines let over from the 10-year Soviet occupation of the 1980s.

"When they arrived, armed people on motorbikes came and forced them to get into their vehicles and made them drive to a nearby village," The Halo Trust's country director, Farid Homayoun, told Reuters.

The kidnappers forced the deminers out of the cars and marched them towards nearby mountains. They have not been seen since.

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