2 Chinese engineers reported kidnapped by Taliban

08:12, January 19, 2010      

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Two Chinese engineers were kidnapped by the Taliban in the northern Afghanistan province of Faryab on Saturday, it was reported yesterday.

The kidnapping, which is yet to be confirmed by the Chinese government, could be the first instance in which the Taliban targeted Chinese people living there.

The Foreign Ministry said yesterday the government is checking the matter.

AFP reported yesterday that Taliban gunmen kidnapped two Chinese engineers and four Afghans accompanying them.

Sayed Aslam Ziarati, police chief of Qaisar district where the men were abducted on Saturday evening, said they were working for a Chinese company on a road project in the area.

"They were traveling in two vehicles when gunmen seized them. We don't know who the gunmen are," Ziarati said.

Taliban spokesman Yusuf Ahmadi was quoted by AFP as saying: "Our mujahedeen have taken two Chinese engineers, their two drivers and their two guards."

Ahmadi said the Taliban's Islamic court, or shura, would decide on their fate.

The identities of the two Chinese engineers were not known by press time; and neither the Chinese embassy in Kabul nor the Afghan embassy in Beijing confirmed the kidnapping yesterday.

The kidnapping is the latest in a series by the militia or criminals. Dozens of foreigners, including engineers and journalists, have been kidnapped in Afghanistan since a 2001 US-led operation that toppled the Taliban government.

Chinese analysts said they are perplexed, as they believe that it is not Taliban strategy to challenge China.

China, which is not a part of the anti-terror mission in the country, is rarely targeted by Taliban attacks.

The Taliban did not claim responsibility when 11 Chinese construction workers were shot dead and another five injured at their camp in northern Kunduz by unknown terrorists in 2004, or when two Chinese engineers were abducted in 2008 and rescued unharmed three days later.

"The northern part of Afghanistan, such as the province of Faryab, is not a region where the Taliban are traditionally active," said Yang Shu, professor of central Asian studies at Lanzhou University.

Northern Afghanistan is dominated by Tajiks, Uzbeks, and other ethnic groups that were a mainstay of the mujahideen forces and then fended off the Taliban.

Yang said he had no idea what charges will Taliban lay against the two Chinese engineers who were only helping to build infrastructure.

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