Afghan policemen are under increased attack as they get ready to take over responsibilities from international forces

The Taliban gunmen have abducted around 50 off-duty policemen in an ambush in a volatile province in northeastern Afghanistan, the militant group and provincial officials have said.

Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said on Sunday that the policemen, who were from Nuristan province, had just finished their training to join the force.

In an emailed statement to reporters, Mujahid said that the Taliban ambushed the men on Saturday afternoon after being tipped off that they would be traveling in Kunar province.

Jamaluddin Badr, the Nuristan governor, said, "The policemen were abducted by militants in the Chapa Dara district of remote northeastern Kunar province after returning from neighbouring Nuristan province where they had travelled to collect their salaries."

"The policemen were in civilian clothes and had no weapons with them," Badr told Reuters.

Mohammad Farooq, a senior police officer in Nuristan, also confirmed the kidnapping.

Kunar and Nuristan are remote and mountainous provinces that share a porous border with lawless areas of neighbouring Pakistan, where gunmen are said to have safe havens from which they launch attacks into Afghanistan.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks against policemen in recent months at a time when Kabul has announced security responsibilities for seven areas will be handed to Afghan forces in July.

The process announced this week is programmed to end with the withdrawal of all foreign combat troops from the country by 2014.

Nine policemen were killed in a suicide attack on February 18.

Source: Agencies