Afghan deputy minister kidnapped in Kabul

Kabul street scene 2008
Image caption There is often high security on Kabul's roads, but kidnappings are relatively common

Afghanistan's deputy minister of public works, Ahmad Shah Wahid, has been kidnapped in Kabul, officials say.

Four armed men in a vehicle opened fire on the minister's car and abducted Mr Wahid while he was on his way to work, the interior ministry confirmed.

His driver was injured in the attack. Officials say they are treating the incident as a criminal matter, rather than related to the Taliban insurgency.

Correspondents say that kidnapping by criminal syndicates is not uncommon.

The main threat has been to wealthy traders who have been kidnapped for ransom and are forced to travel with armed guards.

Deputy ministers are usually provided with armed protection and it is not clear why Mr Wahid did not have his bodyguards with him. He is thought to be one of the highest-ranking government officials to be kidnapped in recent years.

The incident took place in the Khair Khana district in north-west Kabul and a local mechanic described what he saw to the BBC's Bilal Sarwary.

"I saw a vehicle with four or five men blocking the vehicle of the deputy minister and than they opened fire injuring his driver. I saw them dragging the deputy minister and took him with them. Everyone ran when there was shooting," Mohammad Khan said.

Our correspondent adds that, in recent months, Afghan security forces, and the police in particular, have rescued dozens of victims from powerful kidnapping gangs - also making numerous arrests.

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