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Afghans launch hunt for kidnapped Albanians

By Staff
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Mar 12 (Reuters) Afghan security forces said today they were searching for four Albanians and four Afghans who Taliban guerrillas say they had kidnapped in southern Afghanistan at the weekend.

The Taliban said they kidnapped the group while driving on Saturday in the troubled Maiwand district of Kandahar province.

''With regret, we have learned that these Albanians were kidnapped,'' Haji Assadullah Khalid, the governor of Kandahar province, told reporters. ''We have launched a joint search involving police and others to find them.'' Khalid gave no information as to the identity of the Albanians.

Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf said the eight men were being held by the Taliban.

He said they were safe and Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar would decide their fate. Yousuf said the Albanians had been working for a foreign firm he did not identify and that two of the Afghans were drivers.

He did not give any reason for the kidnapping, but the guerrillas, fighting to overthrow President Hamid Karzai's Western-backed government, have attacked and kidnapped people involved in development and reconstruction projects in the past.

The insurgents have killed several foreigners after kidnapping them, including a Briton involved in a road project who was found dead in September and an Indian killed in November.

Both men were killed a few days after their abductions.

REUTERS CH RN1741

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