Afghan officials say 27 members of a mine removal team who were kidnapped in Western Farah province last week have been freed.

Thirty-one deminers were abducted in the province on July 6, but four of them were beheaded at the weekend, said Naqibullah Shafee, a spokesman for the governor of the province.

The remaining men, who worked for the Demining Agency for Afghanistan (DAFA), a local charity based in the southern province of Kandahar, were released after mediation with tribal elders and officials, Shafee said on Monday.

"Twenty-seven of the abducted deminers were freed today with efforts of tribal elders and government officials and they went home today," he told the AFP news agency.

On Sunday, Abdul Baseer, a Farah provincial council member, accused the Taliban of the abductions and killings.

But Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said that the men had been abducted by outlaws and the Taliban were not involved.

In a similar incident last December, 18 Afghans working for the Mine Detection Centre were kidnapped in the eastern province of Khost, which borders Pakistan.

They were freed unharmed one day later in a joint operation by Afghan and foreign troops.

Source: Agencies