HERAT, Afghanistan, (Reuters) – Taliban insurgents have freed 118 labourers they kidnapped in western Afghanistan last week, Taliban commanders and Afghan officials said on Friday.
The Taliban abducted more than 140 workers who were helping to construct an army base. Insurgents seized them in Bala Boluk district in Farah province last Sunday while they were travelling in a convoy of buses. Three of workers were freed soon after.
“Due to the hard work of the elders who were negotiating with the Taliban, 118 of the workers have been released,” the governor of Farah province Rohul Amin told reporters.
The Taliban have kidnapped dozens of foreigners and many more Afghans in the last two years as they have stepped up their insurgency to overthrow the pro-Western Afghan government and drive out the more than 70,000 foreign troops from the country.
“We have released 118 of these workers and the rest soon will be freed soon,” Taliban spokesman Mullah Wakil said by telephone from an unknown location. “Once again we request workers not to work with American or Afghan troops. The reason we kidnapped these people was to send a message to Afghan workers,” he said.
Farah province, on the border with Iran, has seen a sharp surge in violence in the past year, with a series of attacks on troops and convoys and along the main highway linking the south with the western city of Herat, as well as on road construction projects in the area.