KANDAHAR: January 26, 2008. An American woman working for an aid organization and her Afghan driver were kidnapped by unknown gunmen in the southern city of Kandahar on Saturday, officials told AFP.
"Today in the morning, unknown gunmen kidnapped an American woman who was working for an NGO," Asadullah Khalid, the governor of Kandahar province, told AFP.
Khalid said the woman was travelling by car from home to her office wearing a burqa -- the tent-like veil worn by most Afghan women -- when she was kidnapped at gunpoint with her driver. They had no armed guards with them.
The governor said the 49-year-old woman, who "has been in Kandahar for a while," worked for the Asian Rural Life Development Organization.
The interior ministry confirmed the abduction and said it was investigating.
"Today in... Kandahar an American women who worked for an NGO was abducted by unknown people. We`re investigating and there has not yet been any contact by the kidnappers," ministry spokesman, Zemarai Bashary said in Kabul.
Kandahar province was the birthplace of the Taliban and more than six years after they were toppled by US-led forces remains one of the most troubled areas in the country.
Khalid said a search was underway for the captives but could not give details due to security reasons.
None of the officials was able to say who could be behind the abduction.
"Who ever they are, they`re the enemies of the country," Khalid said, without naming any particular group.
A US embassy official said "We are aware of the reports and we are investigating them."
Similar kidnappings have been blamed on or claimed by Taliban militants who are fighting an insurgency against the Afghan government and its Western allies.
Criminal gangs have also in the past been involved in the abduction of foreign nationals mainly for ransom.
The biggest and most controversial kidnapping by Taliban rebels was that of 23 South Koreans in Ghazni also in the south in July last year. The Taliban killed two of the hostages before freeing the rest in a deal with Seoul.
Around that time, the Islamic rebels also abducted two German engineers in Wardak province not far from Kabul.
One of the Germans collapsed and was shot by his captors while the other was freed after several months in captivity.
Taliban militants have targeted aid workers and reconstruction projects in an attempt to undermine efforts to extend the reach of the government in the provinces.