Unknown gunmen kidnapped 12 ethnic minority Hazaras from a car in east Afghanistan, days after suspected Taliban fighters kidnapped and killed four Hazaras in the same province, according to Reuters.
Tuesday’s kidnappings in the province of Ghazni follow a spate of suicide bombings in Kabul last week and add to fears of an increase in sectarian violence as the Taliban’s anti-government insurgency gathers pace.
The passengers were travelling to Ghazni city when the gunmen stopped their car in Jaghuri, officials said.
“We are currently in contact with local elders. They will speak with the kidnappers to free our Hazara people,” Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, a deputy governor of Ghazni said.
Hazaras, an ethnic group belonging mainly to the Shi’ite branch of Islam, were persecuted under the Taliban’s hardline Sunni Islamist rule, although sectarian violence has been rare since the end of the Taliban rule in 2001.
On Sunday, suspected Taliban fighters, seeking to re-establish their hard-line Islamist regime after it was toppled by U.S.-led military intervention in 2001, kidnapped four Hazaras while they were travelling from the Jaghori district to Ghazni.
“The Taliban kidnapped them from a car in a same way and later security forces found their bodies,” Ahmadi said.
In February, masked gunmen kidnapped 30 Hazaras in the southern province of Zabul. Nineteen were freed in May, two were killed and nine are still missing.
Almost 5,000 civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan in the first half of the year, according to U.N. figures
In the meantime, The bodies of four men abducted last week in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Ghazni have been found, Press TV reported.
According to the officials, the men kidnapped by militants had all been shot dead.
The bodies were spotted in the Nawur district bordering Pakistan, said deputy police chief of Ghazni province Asadullah Ensaf on Wednesday.
He added that three of the men were members of the Hazara Shia community while the other was a Sunni Pashtun.
The Ghazni governor’s spokesman Shafiq Nang said that the men were engineers, adding that they had been kidnapped by militants last Thursday.
He, however, did not provide more details about the victims.
Meanwhile, a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the engineers were working in the government’s construction projects.
The Hazara Shia community has been targeted by the Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan.
In February, masked gunmen kidnapped 30 Hazara men in Zabul province, located in south of Ghazni.
The men were travelling by bus from Iran when they were seized. The gunmen took their money and phones before leaving them.
In April, four Hazara farmers were also kidnapped in Ghazni province as they were buying livestock in the local market. They were beheaded by the gunmen after local authorities rejected the kidnappers’ demands to release comrades of the militants who were held by the government.
Last month, 11 Hazaras were also kidnapped in the northern province of Baghlan. The abductees were released later.
Hazaras currently make up nine percent of Afghanistan’s estimated 31-million-strong population.