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2 foreign aid workers kidnapped in Afghanistan

A search is underway for the women, who worked for Switzerland-based Medair. Three Afghan colleagues were also taken.

May 24, 2012|By Laura King, Los Angeles Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — Two foreign women working for a Swiss-based aid group have been kidnapped in the remote northeastern province of Badakhshan, Afghan officials said Wednesday.

Three male Afghan colleagues were abducted as well, but one apparently escaped and then alerted the authorities, according to officials in Faizabad, the provincial capital.

The medical team was captured by a group of gunmen Tuesday while traveling by donkey or horseback in an isolated district where floods have washed out roads, and an intensive search was underway, said Abdul Mahrouf Rasikh, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

He said that the aid workers were thought to be alive but that it was not known who the kidnappers were and no demands had been made. Several insurgent groups as well as criminal gangs are active in the area.

The provincial spokesman said the aid group "very unfortunately" had not notified provincial police in advance about their travel plans. Team members, who were working on malnutrition and maternal healthcare, were on their way from the capital to the district of Yawan, where their organization runs a clinic, he said.

Rasikh said those kidnapped were working for a group called Medair, which has been active in Afghanistan for more than a decade. The Switzerland-based group provides aid and rehabilitation in conflict zones and disaster areas, according to its website.

The provincial spokesman said the two foreign women were doctors and that the Afghans included two interpreters and another colleague. He said he did not know the women's nationalities.

Medair spokesman Aurelien Demaurex, contacted by telephone, said the organization had no immediate information about the incident. NATO's International Security Assistance Force said it was aware of the reports that the team was missing. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, Mark Thornburg, said neither of the women was thought to be American.

In 2010, Badakhshan was the scene of the gruesome killing of 10 foreign medical workers, including six Americans, apparently by insurgents. Some of that team's members had worked in Afghanistan for many years and were fluent in Dari, one of the country's two main languages.

laura.king@latimes.com

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