August 18, 2007 / 12:05 PM / 12 years ago

German woman abducted in Afghan capital

(Updates with details of kidnap, paragraphs 5-7)

By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Gunmen kidnapped a German woman aid worker on Saturday in the Afghan capital, an Interior Ministry spokesman said, and armed men seized four Afghan engineers in the south of the country.

The woman was seized in the southwestern part of Kabul, where some aid groups have offices, spokesman Zemarai Bashary said.

He refused to identify the abductors, saying it would jeopardise police efforts, but added police were targeting locations where the woman was believed to be held.

The woman works for the "Ora International" aid group, an official at the organisation in Germany told Reuters.

A Western official said the woman was was eating dinner with her husband at the "Barbecue Tonight" restaurant when two men in civilian clothes came in brandishing pistols and pulled her out.

"Her poor husband tried to stop the whole thing but couldn’t and she was whisked away," the official said. "It looks like a criminal act rather than a political one."

He said there were reports that criminal gangs from the north of Afghanistan were planning more kidnappings and abductions of foreigners in Kabul. The two kidnapper spoke with northern accents.

Earlier in the day, armed men seized four engineers in the southern province of Kandahar, provincial police said. Tribal elders of the area have promised to secure the release of the engineers, they said.

The motive behind the abduction of the German woman was not clear, the interior ministry spokesman said.

Several foreigners have been kidnapped in recent years in Kabul, mostly by criminal gangs, but have been released unharmed apparently after ransom payments.

The latest abduction comes a month after two German aid workers and five of their Afghan colleagues were kidnapped by Taliban guerrillas in Wardak province, southwest of the city.

One of the German men was found dead with gunshot wounds and the other, along with four Afghans, is being held by the Taliban. One of the Afghans managed to escape.

The Taliban demand the withdrawal of German troops serving with NATO forces from Afghanistan but Berlin has ruled that out.

A day after kidnapping the Germans, the Taliban seized 23 South Korean Christian volunteers from a bus in neighbouring Ghazni province.

The Taliban have killed two men from the Korean group but freed two of the women on Monday as a gesture of goodwill during talks with Korean diplomats.

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