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Kidnappings Prompt American University of Afghanistan to Suspend Operations

A car passes American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016.
A car passes American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016.

The privately-run American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul has formally announced its campus operations will remain temporarily suspended after Sunday's kidnapping of two of its foreign teaching staff members.

Afghan authorities say unknown gunmen Sunday evening abducted the lecturers, an American and an Australian, from Darulaman Road near the university. There have been no claims of responsibility.

“Campus operations have been temporarily suspended and we expect that operations will resume on August 10, 2016,” AUAF said in a statement posted on its Facebook page on Tuesday.

It added that the university is in close contact with Afghan authorities as well as relevant diplomatic missions in Kabul and everything possible is being done to ensure their immediate and safe return. “We are devastated by the news and will remain vigilant to ensure the safety and security of all university personnel and students” the statement quoted AUAF President Mark English as saying.

“Out of respect for the families and for reasons of privacy, the names of the persons involved are being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin," he said.

Kidnapping for ransom incidents have lately become a major challenge for authorities amid intensified Taliban insurgent attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan.

Last week, a group of U.S. and European tourists were ambushed and attacked by the Taliban in the western Afghan province of Herat. Six tourists and their Afghan driver were injured in the rocket attack that destroyed their minibus.

An Indian aid worker was released last month weeks after she was kidnapped while returning home from work in Kabul. An Australian woman was abducted in the eastern city of Jalalabad in April and she remains unaccounted for.

The whereabouts of five Pakistani crew members and their Russian navigator also remain unknown after they were taken hostage by unknown gunmen on Thursday shortly after their helicopter crash landed in the Afghan province of Logar.

Pakistani authorities say the Russian-made MI-17 helicopter was on its way to Uzbekistan for routine maintenance at a Russian-run facility when it went down after taking off from the northwestern city of Peshawar. Both the Afghan Taliban and fugitives linked to the Pakistani Taliban have so far distanced themselves from the incident.

Russian media however have quoted a foreign ministry statement in Moscow as saying that “there is no threat to the lives of hostages, talks on their release have been scheduled.” It gave no other details.

Pakistani civilian and military leaders have asked their counterparts in Afghanistan to help in recovery of the hostages.