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PAN, August 6, 2012

Rising kidnap cases spark strike in Herat City

By Ahmad Quraishi

Workers of industrial companies, moneychangers, doctors, jewellers and traders went on strike in protest against rising kidnappings in western Herat province.

Moneychangers, auto spare businessmen and jewelers closed their shops in the provincial capital, where business centres wore a deserted look.

One striker, Mohammad Rafiq Shahir, told Pajhwok Afghan News that abductions had lately emerged as a key threat to people’s lives, properties and businesses. "We are tired of this situation and can no longer tolerate it.''

About the negative impacts of the strike, he said emergency departments of health care centres, hospitals and some shops would remain open. They would continue their strike until the issue was addressed by the government, he added.

Herat strike due to hike in kidnapping
(Photo: PAN)

Herat Industrial Union head Hamidullah Khadim, speaking at the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries office, said: "The strike is aimed to ensure security and protection against gangs of kidnappers.''

"The groups are threatening rich people and have made life miserable for residents of Herat, Afghanistan’s commercial hub, disrupting trade and work,'' he complained.

Khadim said seven people were currently in abductors’ captivity, but two children were released after their families agreed to pay ransom on Sunday night. Shown to journalists, Suhrab, the son of a transport company owner, was freed after he spent 105 days in captivity.

Suhrab said: "I was thrown into a vehicle by some masked men who took me to an unknown place on April 17, when I was on the way to school. The captors bothered me and hurled death threats at me.''

His father, Abu Bakar, said: "The abductors first sought a ransom of $0.5 million (25.6 million afghanis) and when they realised that I can't pay such a huge amount, they accepted $117,000.'' He asked the government to improve security conditions.

Khadim said: "Kidnappers often escape punishment. If detained at all, they are forgiven under one presidential decree or another. Their cases are referred to other provinces and they are later released.''

But the governor's media office said 56 people had been detained by police on charges of abduction over the past four months. At least 17 abduction attempts were thwarted.

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