12 Afghan mine clearers freed after kidnap: Police

Afghan police said that soldiers had freed 12 kidnapped mine clearers in an overnight sting operation.

Kabul: Afghan police said on Friday that
soldiers had freed 12 kidnapped mine clearers in an overnight
sting operation, but six others were still missing after being
abducted near the Pakistani border.

The victims were snatched by gunmen on motorcycles in the
volatile eastern province of Khost, a Taliban flashpoint, and
freed early today, Khost provincial police chief Abdul Hakim
Eshaqzai said.

"Afghan and coalition forces conducted an air and ground
operation in Musa Khel district," he said. "As a result, 12 of
the kidnapped deminers were freed unharmed, and the kidnappers
fled. We are looking for the six remaining mine clearers."

There was no immediate confirmation from the NATO-led
International Security Assistance Force that they were
involved in the release operation.

The mine clearers work for the Mine Detection Center, a
local charity that has been clearing mines and unexploded
ordinance across the country since 1989.

A nine-year Taliban insurgency is concentrated in
southern and eastern Afghanistan, but has spread to once
calmer areas in the north and west.

Militants fighting against the Western-backed Afghan
government since the 2001 US-led invasion have rear bases in
Pakistan across the border from Khost.

US and Afghan officials say the insurgents enjoy at least
some measure of protection from Pakistan -- although
Pakistan`s army flatly denies this.


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