‘Some hostages shifted to Ghazni from Zabul’
GHAZNI CITY (Pajhwok): Officials and some residents on Sunday claimed some of the kidnapped 31 passengers had been shifted to southern Ghazni province from neighbouring Zabul province’s Khak-i-Afghan district by their captors believed to be members of the so-called Islamic State (IS) group.
The passengers, belonging to the ethnic Hazara minority tribe, were snatched from two buses on the Kabul-Kandahar Highway in Zabul province’s Shahjoy district about 13 days ago by masked gunmen.
Nine days after the abduction, Afghan security forces conducted operations in Khak-i-Afghan and Arghandab districts of Zabul to rescue the passengers from the clutches of their kidnappers, killing a number of foreign militants. But the security forces are yet to succeed in knowing the whereabouts of the hostages.
A government official in Ghazni, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Pajhwok Afghan News the passengers had been kidnapped by gunmen aligned with the IS group. He said some of the kidnapped persons had been moved from Zabul to Ghazni’s Nawa, Gilan and Ab Band districts.
“Local residents told us the hostages have been brought to Ghazni by their kidnappers who keep changing locations of the hostages,” the official said.
He said the kidnapped persons were residents of Ghazni’s Jaghori district and Ghazni tribal elders had negotiated their release with the IS fighters in Zabul, but the talks faltered.
He said if the whereabouts of the hostages was determined, an operation to rescue them would be launched without any delay.
The official said all those kidnapped were alive and the kidnappers had divided them into five groups, shifting them from one place to another several times a day.
Ghazni officials said the kidnappers had demanded weapons and ammunitions Zabul security forces had seized in a container in an exchange for the kidnapped persons.
A resident of Gilan district’s Rasni area, wishing anonymity, said some of the kidnapped persons had been brought to their area.
“I saw them with my own eyes. The gunmen with their faces covered in black clothes brought five blindfolded men to our area. They stayed for two hours and then took the hostages elsewhere as more gunmen arrived.”
A resident of Nawa district, Roohullah, said masked gunmen brought with them some of the hostages on Wednesday last to their area. He said the gunmen spoke in a foreign language.
“Besides Taliban, a number of foreign fighters who keep their faces covered operate in our area. They are in control of the district. Here they feel secure. They brought 10 hostages, who are likely to be still here.”
Nawa and Gilan districts border Zabul. Gilan borders Zabul’s Shahjoy district and Nawa borders Nawbahar district of Zabul as well as Pakistan.
The Taliban have been in control of Nawa over the past decade. Gilan and Ab Band districts are 120 and 90 kilometers respectively from Ghazni City, the provincial capital, and both are volatile.
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