Afghan authorities are disputing police reports that insurgents abducted nearly 50 passengers from a bus in Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan Wednesday morning.
Gen. Mohammad Qaseem Jangalbagh, the Kunduz provincial police chief, said the bus was carrying 47 passengers and security forces managed to rescue a few of them. He said police are now planning an operation for the release of the rest.
However Sated Mahmood Danish, a spokesman for Kunduz’s governor, told VOA’s Afghan service that only 18 passengers were abducted and 10 have already been freed. He said the passengers on the bus were all civilians who were deported from Iran and just wanted to go home.
No group has taken responsibility for the incident yet.
This is the third mass kidnapping in the last nine days. All of them happened in northern Afghanistan, with two of them in Kunduz.
Taliban fighters killed more than a dozen passengers in Kunduz last week when they set up an illegal check post on a highway and stopped multiple vehicles to kidnap around 200 people. They are still holding up to ten of those passengers hostage.
In a second kidnapping in neighboring Sar-e-Pul province, local elders intervened to secure the release of 17 hostages.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan had expressed its concern last week over “the spate of abductions, hostage-taking and summary executions carried out in recent days against passengers travelling in civilian vehicles.”
Nicholas Hayson, the head of UNAMA, had called it “indefensible” and demanded an end to the “horrible practice.”
VOA’s Afghan Service contributed to this report.