Afghanistan kidnap: Gunmen seize 30 Hazara men in Zabul


Masked gunmen in southern Afghanistan have abducted 30 men from the Hazara ethnic minority, officials say.

The men were travelling by bus from Iran when they were seized in Zabul province, on the road to Kabul.

No group has said it carried out the abductions. Kidnappings for ransom are common in Afghanistan.

Unlike in Pakistan, Afghan Hazaras, who are mostly Shia Muslims, have been largely spared attacks by Sunni militants operating in both countries.

Eyewitnesses say gunmen wearing masks and black clothes forced a convoy of two buses to stop in Zabul, on the road between Kandahar and the capital, on Monday night.

The gunmen took money and phones from the Hazara men before driving them away, one bus passenger told BBC Persian.

"Their faces were covered and they were wearing military clothes."

He said he and another man had been left behind because the gunmen had no room for them in their vehicles.

"After five minutes police arrived. We could still see [the kidnappers]. We told the police and showed them to the police - they said they would find them but didn't chase them."

'Army uniform'

The gunmen took 30 men away but left behind women and children.

The passengers had travelled from Iran, via the western Afghan city of Herat.

District Governor Abdul Khaliq Ayoubi blamed the Taliban for the attack, Afghanistan's Tolo News reported.

Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said police were "doing everything to ensure their safe release".

Though tensions exist between Afghanistan's Sunni and minority Shia Muslims, most attacks in Afghanistan in recent years have targeted government officials or international forces, correspondents say.

An exception to this was an attack on a Shia mosque in Kabul in 2011 which killed 55 people.

Foreign troops ended their combat role in Afghanistan in December but some have remained in the country to support the Afghan military.

The nation still faces a bloody Taliban insurgency and US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said on Saturday that Washington was considering slowing its troop withdrawal as a result.

There are also fears that the influence of IS could be growing in Afghanistan, though Mr Carter said "the reports I've seen still have them in small numbers".

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