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Kidnappers Demand Release of Taliban Prisoners for Ransom

A Turkish construction firm said one of its engineers working in southern Afghanistan has been abducted. Meanwhile, a high-level U.N. delegation has arrived in Afghanistan for talks with government leaders.

Representatives of the Turkish company said Saturday in the Afghan capital, Kabul, that their colleague and his Afghan driver were forcibly taken from their vehicle in the remote southern province of Zabul. They said the they were later able to contact the abductors via the kidnapped engineer's satellite phone.

The kidnappers reportedly demanded the release of six Taliban prisoners in exchange for the Turkish engineer. Fighters loyal to Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers and members of the al-Qaida terrorist groups have been waging an insurgency against the Afghan transitional government.

News of the incident comes as an unprecedented delegation of ambassadors representing the United Nations Security Council begins a week-long visit to Afghanistan.

Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad said he hopes the visit will bring renewed commitment from U.N. member states for security assistance and financial aid.

"The U.N. presence has to be a long-term one in Afghanistan, until we reach the point where we can start scaling back, a few years down the road," Mr. Samad said.

Meanwhile, residents in a northeastern town say at least eight people were killed when a house was bombarded from the air Friday. The house belonged to a former provincial governor, Ghulam Rabbani, who was in Kabul at the time, and is now calling for a government investigation into the incident. U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan said it has no information about the alleged incident.