An official says gunmen have kidnapped 11 land mine clearers in western Afghanistan.

Rauf Ahmadi, the spokesman for the police chief of the western Herat province, said Saturday that a military operation has been launched in the area, with six suspects detained. He says tribal elders had earlier tried negotiating the de-miners' release.

He says all 11 were Afghans employed by the HALO Trust mine clearing organization. They were abducted Friday.

Abduction for ransom is widespread in lawless Afghanistan, and de-miners are soft targets as they usually work in remote regions.

After almost 40 years of war, Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.