Taliban frees abducted labourers

Negotiations by tribal elders lead to release of 118, while 35 more remain captive.

    "We are freed," one of the released workers, Mohammad Naeem, said.

    "We are very happy to be heading towards our homes and to be able to see our families."

    Three workers, who were ill, were released on Thursday.

    Most of the labourers came from the capital Kabul and were expected to resume their journey home on Saturday, the governor said.

    Mistaken identity

    The labourers were working with an American construction company building for the Afghan National Army (ANA), Naeem said.

    "Taliban abducted us thinking that we were ANA soldiers. They freed us after they realised that we are not soldiers," he said, adding they had been "treated well".

    Zemeri Bashary, an Afghan interior ministry spokesman, said after the labourers were captured: "What demand might they have from the government? They are poor and innocent labourers who are travelling far distances for work."

    Naeem said: "Most of the people with us are carpenters, masons, painters and other construction workers."

    Eid release

    Earlier, Safiullah Bilal, who said he was a Taliban spokesman for Farah province, told journalists that the 118 were to be released ahead of Eid.

    "On the arrival of Eid and the month of Ramadan, we are going to free all the 118 people we had abducted in 10 minutes," he said on Wednesday.

    But Yousuf Ahmadi, a known Taliban spokesman, said his fighters did not have a spokesman in Farah and "do not know this Safiullah Bilal".

    "We have not abducted the 150 Afghan labourers and we are not aware of it," he said on Wednesday.

    Criminal gangs and pro-Taliban groups have been involved in abductions of Afghans and foreigners, most often seeking ransom.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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