Suspected Taliban militants have kidnapped nine Shia passengers in Afghanistan’s northern province of Sar-e Pol and transferred them to unknown locations, local officials say.
“The ill-fated passengers were going from provincial capital, Sar-e Pol city, to [the province’s] Balkhab district Wednesday morning when a group of armed people, presumably Taliban militants, intercepted their vehicles in Damarda area,” Hayatullah Alamai, a member of Sar-e Pol provincial council, told China’s official Xinhua news agency.
Alamai did not provide further details about the abduction in Sar-e Pol, located 350 kilometers (217 miles) north of the Afghan capital city of Kabul.
Ghulam Nabi Khuram, another provincial council member in Sar-e Pol, also confirmed the event, blaming the Taliban for the kidnapping.
Abductions are common in the violence-hit Afghanistan that has suffered decades of continuous war.
In a similar incident, unknown gunmen kidnapped four people in the northern province of Balkh on Sunday night. The abductees’ fate is still unknown.
On February 23, masked gunmen abducted 31 Shia Muslims who were traveling on two buses in Afghanistan’s central province of Zabul. The government has yet to secure their release.
Although the Taliban was removed from power after the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror, the country is still grappling with insecurity.
The US-led combat mission in Afghanistan ended on December 31, 2014. However, at least 13,500 foreign forces, mainly from the US, have remained in the country in what Washington is calling a support mission. The NATO says the forces will focus mainly on counterterrorism and training Afghan soldiers and policemen.