Four Turkish engineers abducted in Afghanistan

The four Turkish engineers worked for a firm which built border posts.

Khost: Four Turkish engineers working for a construction firm and their Afghan driver were kidnapped on Sunday in eastern Afghanistan, a senior local official said.

The men were abducted in the restive Paktia province as they travelled from a building site in Dand Wa Patan district, which borders Pakistan`s lawless tribal areas, to provincial capital Gardez.

"Four Turkish engineers and their Afghan driver were kidnapped by unknown gunmen and have been taken away to an unknown location," Paktia`s Deputy Governor Abdul Rahman Mangal said.

"We have deployed security and intelligence organisations. A wide-ranging operation is ongoing in the area but there is no information about the hostages and kidnappers so far."

Mangal added that the men worked for a firm which built border posts. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the incident.

Criminal groups and insurgents have kidnapped several dozen foreigners in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Taliban.

Most of the hostages are released physically unharmed following negotiations.

Earlier this month, one Bangladeshi road worker was killed and seven others were taken captive in northern Afghanistan. Five of them are still being held despite efforts by local police and elders to free them.

Two French journalists from state-owned channel France 3 remain in captivity after being kidnapped east of Kabul a year ago by suspected Islamist insurgents.

Turkey, NATO`s only Muslim-majority member, has 1,815 troops in Afghanistan, serving in Jawzjan province in the north, Warak in central Afghanistan and the capital, Kabul.

They form part of the 140,000-strong, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which has been fighting a nine-year Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

Turkey`s mission in Afghanistan is limited to patrols and its troops do not take part in combat operations.

Ankara is trying to encourage Afghanistan and Pakistan to cooperate more closely against Islamist insurgents.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul hosted talks with his counterparts Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari Friday in which the three countries agreed to hold joint military drills next year.

Bureau Report