Afghan Taliban abduct 60 passengers

Kandahar—The Taliban on Tuesday ambushed a series of buses and cars in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, forcing people out of the vehicles and abducting about 60 passengers, an Afghan official said.
The insurgents later said they released all but 27 of those abducted.
According to Mohammad Ismail, a district police chief in Helmand, the attack happened in Gareshk district. The Taliban forced the buses and cars to stop at gunpoint, he said, adding that it’s not known where the Taliban took the abducted passengers.
The abductions come amid stepped-up Taliban attacks as part of their summer offensive. The insurgents frequently target buses carrying civil servants, or those perceived to be working for the Kabul government.
In Tuesday’s attack, Abdull Ghafoor Tokhi, the Helmand transportation director, said the Taliban “stopped couple of buses and around 15 other vehicles on the main highway and searched them all” — suggesting they were looking for someone or something specific and had enough time to go through all the vehicles.
Later Tuesday, Helmand police chief Gen. Aqa Noor Kentoz said Afghan security forces launched an operation to find the abducted passengers. He said it was too early to say how many government employees were among those traveling in the attacked buses and cars.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yusouf Ahmadi later in a message to the media confirmed the group was behind the assault and said the insurgents still hold 27 of the abducted but freed the others.
“We freed all but 27 … There will be an investigation and we will find out if they are government employees and if so, they will be handed over to the Taliban judicial officials to decide on their fate,” said Ahmadi.—AP

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