New efforts to free Red Cross workers in Afghanistan

GHAZNI, Afghanistan (AFP) – Negotiators were in touch Friday with the captors of four Red Cross workers, two of them foreigners, who were held in Afghanistan during a mission to free a German kidnapped by the Taliban.Contact had been made with the group that seized the men on Wednesday in the province of Wardak, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Kabul, and military action had been ruled out to free the men, an Afghan official told AFP.

“The Red Cross office advised us not use any military action for the safety of the kidnapped people and the issue must be solved via mediation through tribal elders,” said the governor of Sayed Abad district, Anayatullah Mangal.

“We are in contact with the kidnappers via tribal elders and influentials,” he said. Mangal has said previously it was not clear who was holding the four.

The Red Cross workers did not return to Kabul on Wednesday after their mission in Wardak, where the 62-year-old German engineer and five Afghans were captured in July.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) did not say they have been kidnapped but that they have been detained and are expected to be freed soon.

The ICRC was continuing to work to free the men — one from Myanmar and another from Macedonia, it said.

“We are in contact with all the involved parties,” spokeswoman Graziella Leite Piccolo said in Kabul.

The incident comes after a string of abductions of foreigners in Afghanistan, some claimed by the insurgent Taliban movement and some blamed on criminals seeking ransom.

The Taliban has said it is not involved in the disappearance of the Red Cross staff.

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