Gunmen kidnapped five Health Ministry employees in the volatile southern Afghan province of Kandahar while police elsewhere said they had killed a Taliban commander, officials said on Thursday.
Bombings, gun battles, assassinations and abductions have been increasing this year as thousands of American troops partnered with Afghan forces fan out in the insurgents’ southern strongholds to try to wrest back control and establish effective local government.
Members of a medical team were abducted while returning to Kandahar city, the provincial capital, after visiting a project in Maiwand district, provincial spokesman Zulmi Ayubi said on Thursday.
The gunmen forced the car to stop about a mile (two kilometers) outside Maiwand and abducted two doctors, a pharmacist, a nurse and their driver, Mr. Ayubi said. The Health Ministry issued a statement calling for their release.
The kidnappers were not identified, but Taliban insurgents have been on a spree of assassinations and abductions of government workers. The campaign of fear is especially intense in Kandahar, where Afghan and international forces have been increasing their presence, with the apparent message that the militants can still operate in their traditional stronghold.
Kandahar is the spiritual birthplaces of the Taliban, who follow an extreme form of Islam that they imposed on Afghanistan during their five years in power before their regime was toppled by U.S.—backed forces for sheltering al—Qaeda terrorist leaders.
In neighbouring Uruzgan province, police said they had killed a local Taliban commander, identified as Mullah Dawood, in a gun battle.
A routine police patrol discovered the insurgents in a village in Tarin Kot district and started fighting, according to Gulab Khan, the deputy police chief. He said five insurgents, including the commander and a bomb—maker, died and the police suffered no casualties.
Taliban spokesmen could not be reached for comment.