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Aid worker's family pleads for safe return

An Australian charity director in Afghanistan has been kidnapped near the border with Pakistan. Authorities say "unidentified gunmen" grabbed the woman in Jalalabad.

Katherine Jane Wilson - who goes by the first name Kerry - was reportedly kidnapped near the Pakistani frontier on Thursday, authorities said Friday.

Wilson, who is reportedly in her 60s, has been living in Afghanistan for years and runs Zardozi, a charity that helps support impoverished Afghan women by selling their embroidered crafts.

"She visited the city of Jalalabad for a women's embroidery project," Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, told the AFP news agency. "Unknown masked gunmen abducted her from Police District 2 of Jalalabad city."

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia was working to secure Wilson's release.

"Our priority is to ensure that she is well, that she's being treated well, and so that's what we're focusing our efforts upon, working with the local authorities," Bishop said. "Our embassy in Kabul of course is deeply involved in this matter."

Family cautiously optimistic

Meanwhile Wilson's elderly father, Brian Wilson, told the Austalian Broadcasting Corporation that his daughter had worked in the region with charities related to women's rights and water security for more than 20 years, and appealed for her release.

"I feel extremely worried indeed," said the 91-year-old from the city of Perth. "But I presume she's a hostage and that they'll do their best to keep her alive and not harm her, simply because they want to have something or other in return and it's not very good having a dead hostage."

But the Australian government also said it has ruled out paying any ransoms.

"The Australian government does not, as a matter of policy, pay ransom for kidnappers," Bishop said.

jar/kms (AP, AFP, dpa)

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