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Hunt Continues for Kidnappers

Officials put new security measures in place in the wake of the abduction of three UN election workers.
By Safia Milad

Officials investigating the abduction last week of three United Nations election workers say they are in contact with the kidnappers amid growing concern that ranking members of the country’s security forces may have been involved in the incident.

Lutfullah Mashal, spokesman for the interior ministry, said the investigation was 70 per cent complete. He said he was hopeful that the kidnappers would soon be arrested.

Meanwhile, Reuters news agency quoted defence ministry spokesman General Zahir Azemi as saying that the kidnappers have extended their November 2 deadline for the freeing of all Afghan prisoners held by the US jails in Afghanistan as well as those detained at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The group, calling itself Jaish al-Muslimin, or the Army of Muslims, earlier said it would kill the hostages November 2 if the demands were not met. The group told Reuters today, however, that it had not extended the deadline.

Angelito Nayan of the Philippines, Annetta Flanigan of Northern Ireland, and Shqipe Habibi of Kosovo, were seized in Kabul on October 28 as they left their UN offices by a group of men wearing military uniforms and driving a vehicle with blackened windows.

Azemi had said that the government was in contact with the kidnappers.

Mashal said that the kidnappers would face the death penalty if convicted. The same sentence was issued last week to the three men convicted of killing more than a dozen Chinese road workers earlier this year near Kunduz.

Azemi also said the defence ministry feared that some security officials in the capital have helped the kidnappers.

Kabul police have already detained and are interrogating seven men in connection with the kidnapping.

Many have condemned the kidnapping.

Maulavi Abdul Mabod Abid, chief of Ministry of Haj and Religious Affairs, said the abduction was against Islamic law. "It is an anti-Islamic act that all religious mullahs condemn," he said.

Meanwhile, security officials here have ordered a ten-day jail sentence for anyone driving a vehicle with blackened windows. The three workers were taken in broad daylight using a vehicle with blackened windows, the kind most favoured by senior officials and commanders in Kabul.

General Azim Jalal Hashemi, chief of the Second Precinct of Kabul, said the Interior Ministry has ordered all security officials to stop vehicles with blackened windows and those lacking license plates and registration documents.

Only cabinet ministers and some senior officials will be allowed to use vehicles with blackened windows, officials said.

The Kabul police had previously banned black-windowed vehicles but violators only received a warning and were allowed to continue. Now officials fear terrorists will use such vehicles and agreed to a more serious sanction.

The new regulations are already in effect.

Police in the Second Precinct said they had already arrested 50 people for illegally driving with blacked-out windows.

Drivers are already complaining about the policy.

"Though my vehicle's documents are all right, the police stop me at every square for long time and they bother me," said Eid Gul, the driver of a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Safia Milad and Habib Rahman Ibrahimi are reporters with IWPR’s Pajhwak Afghan News.