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Gunmen Disguised as Afghan Soldiers Kidnap Professors in Kabul

Up to five gunmen, reportedly dressed as members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), kidnapped two professors Sunday night in the Afghan capital of Kabul — one from the United States and the other from Australia.

The two foreigners have been identified by CNN as lecturers at the American University of Afghanistan.

“Two foreign professors, one American and the other Australian, were abducted at gunpoint from Dar-ul-Aman Road in the center of Kabul city,” Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Afghan authorities are reportedly searching for the victims.

TOLO News reports:

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but kidnapping-for-ransom has increased in Afghanistan in the past couple of months…

Sources told TOLOnews that the American citizen, named Kiven King, has worked at the university for the past two years. However, there is no information about the identity of the Australian citizen who is believed to have arrived in Kabul two weeks ago.

Citing Sediqqi, the Associated Press (AP) reports that the two professors were abducted Sunday night from their SUV by up to five gunmen wearing Afghan military uniforms.

The victims were traveling between the institution and their residence on a main road close to the American University of Afghanistan, revealed the Afghan spokesman.

The U.S. and Australian embassies in Kabul have reportedly confirmed the kidnappings, adding that they could not elaborate further due to privacy and safety considerations.

“U.S. Embassy security officials are working closely with Afghan law enforcement and security colleagues and AUAF to assist in the investigation into the kidnapping,” said the American consulate in a statement, referring to the American University of Afghanistan, reports AP.

“We continue to advise Australians not to travel to Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation, including the serious threat of kidnapping,” added Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, also in a statement, reports Reuters.

Sunday’s kidnappings came soon after a watchdog agency appointed by the U.S. Congress warned that security conditions continue to deteriorate across Afghanistan, particularly in Kabul.

In its latest quarterly report to Congress, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said:

According to DOD [U.S. Department of Defense], the capital city experienced 10 high-profile attacks between December 1, 2015, and May 20, 2016, with 50 others across the rest of Afghanistan. This represents a 41% decrease in high-profile attacks in Kabul compared to 26 during the same period a year earlier…

A sign of the growing insecurity in Kabul are the increasing number of concrete blast walls that surround government buildings, foreign embassies, companies, and the homes of wealthy residents.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has been warning Americans against travel to Afghanistan.

It notes:

Travel to all areas of Afghanistan remains unsafe due to the ongoing risk of kidnapping, hostage taking, military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, militant attacks, direct and indirect fire, suicide bombings, and insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne or other improvised explosive devices (IED).

Late last month, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) branch in the country (IS-KP/ISIL-K) claimed responsibility for the deadliest attack in Kabul of the nearly 15-year-old Afghanistan war, which killed 80 people and injured another 231.

Kaama Press (KP) reports:

The abductions [of the two professors] came almost three weeks after the security forces rescued a female Indian aid worker who was kidnapped from Kabul city earlier in June.

In the meantime a group of Western tourists, including three Americans, was attacked by Taliban fighters while driving in a convoy across rural western Afghanistan three days ago.

Five of the visitors were injured but all were safely evacuated to nearby Herat.

Reuters adds:

Two other foreigners, from Germany and the Netherlands, were taken from the same neighborhood [in Kabul as the Indian aid worker] in separate incidents last year.

Those two foreigners, both of them women, were eventually released unharmed, with police saying the kidnappings were most likely motivated by money.

In June, police began advising foreigners living in the capital that they should travel with guards or avoid leaving their homes.

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