Skip to main content

Kidnappers holding 60 mine defusers in Afghanistan

By Masoud Popalzai and Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 8:18 AM EST, Tue January 21, 2014
[File photo] Afghanistan National Army (ANA) take part in a de-mining exercise at Camp Shaheen on June 12, 2013.
[File photo] Afghanistan National Army (ANA) take part in a de-mining exercise at Camp Shaheen on June 12, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The landmine crew of Afghan natives was on its way to clear areas of Herat province
  • The abductors took the workers, their vehicles and their equipment to a village
  • Then the workers were forced to go into the mountains
  • Eight of the abducted fled; tribal leaders are being called on to help release those still held

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The prospect of being blown up makes defusing landmines dangerous work, particularly in Afghanistan. But that is just one of many dangers that explosives workers face there.

On Tuesday, armed men abducted 68 mine defusers who were on their way to clear explosives in the western province of Herat, on Iran's border, a spokesman for the mine disposal organization that employs them said.

Eight of the abducted were able to flee, said Dr. Farid Homayoun of Britain's Halo Trust.

Afghan security forces have surrounded the area, and Halo Trust is trying to enlist the help of local tribal elders to secure the release of the remaining 60.

Gates on Obama's Afghan plan
First female police chief in Afghanistan

The organization has 150 mine defusing teams and employs more than 3,000 Afghans, it says on its website. It also destroys other munitions.

Since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, multiple warring parties have laid landmines, bringing the total number of mines to as many as 640,000 Halo Trust reports.

The kidnappers first took the explosives workers -- all Afghan natives -- their vehicles and their equipment to a village. Then the abductors forced the captives to go into the mountains, Homayoun said.

No one, including the Taliban, has taken responsibility for the kidnapping, Homayoun said, and no ransom demands have been made.

Local police are also working to free them, said Herat province Police Chief Abdul Rauf Ahmadi said.

He said the mine clearers traveled to the area without informing area security officials, who could have guarded them in the remote, rugged and insecure region.

READ: 1 ISAF service member killed in attack on base in Afghanistan

READ: Kabul restaurant was beloved refuge; now it's terrorists' rubble

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT