Last three Afghan mine clearers freed

KHOST, Afghanistan (AFP) – The remaining three members of a 13-person demining team captured in eastern Afghanistan a week ago have been freed, officials said without making clear who had seized them.The men — two deminers and a driver — were freed in Paktia province late Wednesday after mediation by tribal elders and religious scholars, provincial police chief Esmatullah Alizai told AFP.

The head of the Afghan Technical Consultants (ATC) group, which employed the captured men, confirmed the new releases. Ten were freed Monday.

The team was seized at gunpoint Thursday last week.

“All the 13 were freed with the help of tribal elders and local influential people,” said ATC head Kafayatullah Eblagh. He and the police chief said no ransom was paid.

Eblagh could not identify the kidnappers but said they demanded the release of prisoners from Afghan jails. The Taliban have made similar demands for the release of their hostages.

“We told them we are a non-governmental organisation and we cannot do this,” he said.

The police chief also did not blame any group for the abductions.

Similar kidnappings have been carried out by Taliban militants and criminal groups linked to them. The hardline Islamist movement has however not claimed responsibility for this case.

The Taliban said following the kidnapping of 23 South Korean nationals last month that abductions were an effective tactic to pressure Kabul.

Two of the South Koreans were killed, when the government refused to release jailed Taliban, and 21 were freed after direct talks between Taliban and Seoul.

Early last month, three deminers were found dead days after they were abducted by Taliban fighters in the southern province of Kandahar.

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