(CNN) -- Seven employees of a non-profit landmine removal organization have been released two days after armed men kidnapped them near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, police said.
The employees released Friday were part of a group of 16 Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation staffers kidnapped by gunmen Wednesday, said Aminullah Omarkhil, border police commander in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province.
The other nine employees were released shortly after their kidnapping Wednesday, he said.
Government officials and province elders helped negotiate the release of the seven remaining hostages, he said.
Omarkhil said the kidnapping was a reaction to stepped up border police patrols that are part of his efforts to crack down on organized crime.
"This is why they kidnapped the demining employees, to damage the reputation of 101 zones of border police," he said.