KABUL: Afghan police yesterday sought to free five local Red Cross employees kidnapped by gunmen in the western province of Herat, in the latest case of aid workers being targeted.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team were taken hostage as they travelled by road to deliver aid in Herat, which has seen worsening violence in recent months.
“The five Red Cross staff were kidnapped on Thursday,” Najib Danish, deputy spokesman at the interior ministry, said. “The police have launched a search and rescue operation to find them. Elders in the area are also helping to track them down.”
Marek Resich, the ICRC spokesman in Kabul, said that the five staff had been taken by a local armed group. “The ICRC is currently in contact at various levels to secure the safe release of its team,” he said.
There was no claim of responsibility from the Taliban or other insurgent groups. The kidnapping comes after other targeting of aid workers, notably when two Finnish humanitarian workers travelling in a taxi in Herat city were shot dead by armed men at the end of July.
Violence against Westerners has been growing in Afghanistan as foreign troops wind down combat operations after a 13-year war against the Taliban, with the majority of Nato’s 44,000 troops due to leave by the end of the year.
Of the 248 attacks against humanitarian workers worldwide in 2013, 81 were in Afghanistan, according to specialist website Aid Worker Security.