Taliban Reportedly Kidnap Contractor; Karzai Calls for End of Violence

Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged Taliban militants Friday to end the violence raging across the country and join forces with the new government to help Afghanistan's reconstruction.

Meanwhile, Taliban militants kidnapped an Indian mobile phone contractor in southern Afghanistan, according to a provincial official and the Taliban's purported spokesman.

An Indian engineer working for the Roshan company was held up at gun point at 5 p.m. as he was driving on the Kandahar-Kabul highway in the Hassan Kariez district of southern Zabul province, said Ali Khail, a provincial government spokesman.

CountryWatch: Afghanistan

Khail did not say how he knew the kidnapping took place, saying only that officials had notified him of the abduction.

Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, a purported spokesman for the Taliban, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that the Indian had been taken hostage and that "higher authorities" within the Taliban would soon decide on the captive's fate.

India's ambassador to Kabul, Rakesh Sood, said he had heard reports of a kidnapping but was trying to confirm it.

Karzai again blamed "outsiders" for fanning his country's insurgency, which he said had claimed the lives of Afghans of all walks of life, from innocent teachers to police and Taliban extremists.

"I want them (the Taliban) to return to us with their guns and to serve their countrymen," Karzai said during a military parade marking the 14th anniversary of the mujahedeen victory over the communist government, which was followed by a bloody four-year civil war.

Remnants of the former Taliban government, which was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, and other militants, have been stepping up attacks against Afghan security forces and U.S.-led coalition troops in recent months.

"After the Taliban's reign ended, normal life started but the enemies of security and peace continued interfering and they are killing the engineers, elders and educated, destroying schools and madrassas (religious schools), and killing Afghans whether they be the Taliban, police or innocent," Karzai said.

"This is the plan of the outsiders for the killing of Afghans."

The parade was held without any security concerns, despite an Australian government warning Thursday of a high threat of terrorist attacks in the Afghan capital during the celebrations.

Thousands of soldiers and policemen marched past Afghan dignitaries led by Karzai as Afghan helicopters hovered nearby and troupes of men performed a traditional war dance.

Hundreds of former "holy warriors" who first battled the Soviets during the 1979-89 occupation of Afghanistan and then the communist government for three more years also filed past a clapping Karzai.

The parade passed by bomb-ravaged buildings in the southeastern quarter of Kabul, the scene of fierce fighting during the civil war that killed an estimated 50,000 people and followed the mujahedeen's 1992 toppling of the communist government.

Security was tight during the ceremony, particularly around Karzai, who was followed by heavily armed guards everywhere he moved.

Karzai also denounced Taliban extremists for wanting to halt Afghanistan's reconstruction.

"I ask the Taliban, in which Islamic country are the schools being destroyed? In which Islamic country is there no education? Women are working in different jobs, such as in Pakistan where they have become pilots," Karzai said.

"We are determined to promote our national interests now that Afghanistan is no longer under the rule of others, but under the rule of Afghans."

Karzai did not refer to any particular group or country, but he and Afghan officials have previously criticized neighboring Pakistan for not doing enough to stop extremists entering Afghanistan from tribal-dominated Pakistan border regions.

Pakistan, which has deployed 80,000 troops along the porous 1,470 mile frontier, rejects the Afghan claims, and says it is taking the battle to extremists at large on its soil.