An Australian woman working for a charity in Afghanistan has been kidnapped, Canberra's foreign minister has said.

Julie Bishop said her government was working to secure the release of Katherine Jane Wilson, an aid worker who is reported to work for an NGO called Zardozi that helped women start handicraft businesses.

She was snatched in Jalalabad, close to the border with Pakistan, on Thursday, a government official in the area told the AFP news agency.

"She visited the city of Jalalabad for a women's embroidery project," Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, of which Jalalabad is the capital, said.

"An unknown masked gunmen abducted her from Police District 2 of Jalalabad city."

He added that the kidnappers, disguised as police, took her at 4am from a home in which she was staying.

'Extremely worried'

Nangarhar police chief Zrawer Zahed confirmed the abduction not long after she arrived on Wednesday evening.

"The details of the reports are still being confirmed but the Afghan authorities certainly believe she has been kidnapped," she told reporters.


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"Our priority is to ensure that she is well, that she's being treated well, and so that's what we're focusing our efforts upon, working with the local authorities. Our embassy in Kabul of course is deeply involved in this matter."

Bishop said she had been in contact with Wilson's family. Asked if Canberra would pay a ransom if one was demanded, she replied: "The Australian government does not, as a matter of policy, pay ransom for kidnappers."

Wilson's 91-year-old father Brian Wilson said his daughter had worked in the region with charities related to women's rights and water security for more than 20 years, and made an emotional plea for her release.

 "I feel extremely worried indeed," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Source: Agencies