Afghans Working for French Aid Group Kidnapped

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Four Afghans working for a French development organization in northern Afghanistan have been abducted, officials said Tuesday.

The team was driving back from a training session in Faryab province Monday afternoon when they were ambushed by a man on a motorcycle and that multiple people were involved in seizing the group, said Abdul Satar Barez, the province's deputy governor. Barez said the captors were Taliban militants.

However, the country director for the French organization, ACTED, said it wasn't clear if the staffers were taken by militants or because of a personal dispute.

"We're not sure exactly who has them. We're still looking into that," Ziggy Garewal said. She explained that while the Taliban are active in the lawless area, there are many other insurgent and criminal groups that also operate.

Garewal said the three trainers and a driver were coming back from conducting hygiene training at a mosque when they were kidnapped.

Barez said that the group could have taken more security precautions by alerting the government to their movements, but Garewal said that the provincial government is well aware of where her organization, of about 350 employees in Faryab, works.

Elsewhere, in the capital Kabul, former parliamentarian Simeen Barakzai continued a hunger strike in protest to her removal from office. The lawmaker from Herat has not drunk or eaten anything for 10 days. She has vowed to continue fasting until the government reopens investigations into allegations of vote fraud against the woman who took her seat.

The dispute over the Afghan parliamentary elections, which took place more than a year ago, has made it difficult for the legislature to do any substantial work at a time when it is considered one of the few potential counterweights to the powerful president.

Afghan election officials said Tuesday that they stand by their decision to remove Barakzai and eight other lawmakers from office after a review of election results, and are willing to make public to anyone how they arrived to their decision.

"Whoever is interested, any relevant institutions interested in the issue, and whatever information is needed from our office, we are ready to cooperate regarding Ms. Barakzai's case," said Fazel Ahmad Manawi, the head of the Afghan election commission.

Meanwhile, in eastern Wardak province, three family members were killed Monday when they walked on an explosive laid in their path. A statement from the Wardak province governor's office said that the dead included two women and one man.