11 Afghan land-mine clearers abducted

May 11, 2013

Unidentified kidnappers have abducted 11 Afghans working in a U.N.-affiliated land-mine clearing program in the east of the country, officials said Saturday.

The 11 were taken Thursday in a remote part of Nangahar province, said Hazrat Hussain Mashreqiwal, the provincial police spokesman. He did not name the abductors but said local officials and tribal elders were trying to negotiate their freedom.

According to the United Nations, an estimated 10 million mines are scattered throughout 150 of Afghanistan’s 400 districts, a legacy of three decades of war. Children and farmers face the most serious threats from the discarded explosive devices. On Friday, three children in the central province of Ghazni were killed when they tried to dismantle an old bomb.

Also Saturday, a string of bombings targeted Afghanistan’s intelligence and security personnel.

In a remote corner of northeastern Afghanistan, a bomb killed an intelligence officer at his home, while in eastern Afghanistan a remote-controlled bomb ripped through a police vehicle, killing two and injuring three other police officers.

A third bombing in the northwestern Faryab province wounded the district police chief.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for any of the bombings, but Taliban insurgents have been targeting Afghan national security forces with deadly regularity. In the first four months of this year, more than 400 Afghan security personnel have been killed in insurgent attacks, compared with 224 in the same period last year.

For the first time in Afghanistan’s 12-year war, Afghan security forces are taking the lead in the battle against insurgents in nearly 90 percent of the country. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, in Afghanistan for talks on a key bilateral pact, said Afghan security forces will be in the lead in 100 percent of the country by the end of the year, ahead of the withdrawal of international combat troops in 2014.

Mohammed Zahir, spokesman for Nurestan’s governor, said the province’s deputy intelligence chief Faiz Mohammed was killed when a bomb planted inside his home exploded. It wasn’t immediately known how the bomb was detonated.

In Nangahar, Ahmed Zia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said that a remote-controlled roadside bomb detonated as a police vehicle passed. People in the area chased three men who appeared to throw away a detonating device. Abdulzai said three men were arrested — one Pakistani and two Afghan nationals.

Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of allowing havens for insurgents on its territory. It also charges that Pakistani militants are among the foreign insurgents aiding the Taliban in its battle against government forces. Pakistan denies the allegations.

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