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PAN, January 21, 2014

Sharp rise in kidnappings in Afghan province

Many of those kidnapped were freed after they paid the ransom money, but some remained missing and others were found dead after being abducted

By Mahbob Shah Mahbob

Residents of eastern Nangarhar province say they are worried about increasing incidents of kidnapping for ransom, as so far 20 hostage-taking events were staged this solar year.

Many of those kidnapped were freed after they paid the ransom money, but some remained missing and others were found dead after being abducted, they said.

A resident of Jalalabad, the provincial capital, Syed Akhtar, whose 9-grader son was killed in captivity some time ago, told Pajhwok Afghan News the kidnappers had demanded him $300,000, an amount far beyond his affordability.

“My son was in 9th class when he was kidnapped. I was searching and trying to know his whereabouts when they killed my son and I found his dead body dumped in Kama district,” said the father.

Akhtar said he was worried about the safety of his remaining school going children, who he feared could be kidnapped the same way. “I send my children to school half-heartedly.”

Those kidnapped over the past few months included government officials, businessmen, private companies’ staffers and civilians.

Prominent among them are transporter Ahmad Shah Sadat, MTN mobile phone company official Eng. Zarghon Shah, former Afghanistan central bank chief Shahzada Mazlomyar, Wolesi Jirga member Haji Hazrat Ali’s brother-in-law Mumtaz, Nangarhar Attorney Abdul Qayyum’s brother, a mine-clearing agency’s head Eng. Bismillah and family members of money-changers and traders.

Those killed after being kidnapped included a 10-year-girl, who had been kidnapped from a school in Jalalabad. Two children were kidnapped near a Hindu temple and later found dead. Similarly, a son of a businessman was found dead after being abducted on the Torkham-Jalalabad highway.

Zarghon Shah’s brother, Syed Ahmad Shah Sadat, also an engineer, said his brother, the local MTN office head, had been kidnapped a year ago and was still in captivity.

He said intelligence officials had arrested a number of suspects in connection with his brother’s kidnapping, but there had been no clue to his whereabouts as yet. He said the fate of those arrested also remained unknown.

“Kidnappers have connections with high government officials who support them from behind the scene,” he believed.

Sadat said some unknown individuals had been calling him and demanding money in return for the release of his brother, but they had stopped contacting him.

“Kidnappers operate from areas where a weak government’s writ prevails,” said Sadat, who added ransom money ranged from $300,000 to $1.5 million.

Another Jalalabad resident Nasiri said his kidnapped son was rescued by security forces before he could pay the ransom money to his kidnappers.

A state-run radio official Shafiqullah was rescued from his kidnappers after hectic efforts by security forces.

Political expert Mohammad Anwar Sultani told Pajhwok News there had lately been a dramatic increase in incidents of kidnapping for ransom in Nangarhar.

He said if the government arrested kidnappers and awarded them an exemplary punishment, no one else would dare to kidnap people for money.

“When kidnappers are arrested, then these lawmakers, tribal elders and government officials start maneuvering behind the scene to get them released,” he alleged.

Provincial council member Zabihullah Zamarai blamed the increasing incidents of kidnappings on inefficiency of security and detective forces.

He also accused prosecutors of acquitting kidnappers after having cut deals with them. “If police arrest a kidnapper, he is released by the attorney because institutions have no coordination here,” the public representative said.

The provincial government spokesman, Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, confirmed the problem of increasing kidnappings, saying Governor Maulvi Attaullah Ludin had directed justice and judicial organs to award maximum punishment to kidnappers.

The governor issued the directives during a meeting attended by judges, public prosecutors, the judicial directorate, crime investigators, military attorney and intelligence officials.

Abdulzai said the governor told these officials that the people had all eyes fixed on them to see laws were implemented and justice delivered. “I am hopeful you will be able to deliver justice and give the people their rights by utilising all your abilities and authority,” he quoted the governor as saying.

Police spokesman Col. Hazrat Hussain Mashraqiwal said dozens of kidnappers had been arrested and referred to judicial organs during the year.

He acknowledged people of Nangarhar were deeply concerned about kidnapping incidents, but said security and intelligence officials were doing all their best to overcome the scourge.

The police official said they had been able to rescue a number of people from their kidnappers, saying the latest such incident took place a day earlier, when police rescued a kidnapped person and arrested three suspects.

Category: HR Violations - Views: 4918