Afghan officials have said an investigation is underway after a German aid worker was reportedly kidnapped at gunpoint in Kabul. The US warned over the weekend that there was a threat to foreigners in the city.
The Afghan Interior Ministry said on Monday that an investigation was ongoing, but that no group had claimed immediate responsibility for the apparent kidnapping.
According to police officials, unidentified attackers abducted the woman in the district of Qala-e-Fatullah on Monday morning.
The German Foreign Ministry has refused to confirm the news, saying only that it was working to clarify what had happened. The German development agency GIZ - for whom the woman is believed to work - has declined to give further details. The victim was apparently taken from a car by two armed men after leaving her office, with one of the vehicle's windows having been smashed in. No shots were fired, police said.
"We were at the office when we heard rumbling and screams, by the time we came out, we found out that kidnappers had taken a woman," a witness told the dpa news agency.
GIZ workers, speaking anonymously, told dpa that the aid agency's office in Kabul had been under lockdown since last week because of threats. "GIZ sent all non-essential staff on holiday, dozens of them," one employee was reported as saying. "They asked everyone else to work from home, and asked all of us to stop all movements, except for essential ones."
The German government estimates there are some 80 German development aid workers in Afghanistan, down from around 200 only a few months earlier. Additionally, about 1,700 local people work for German development organizations.
Warning of imminent danger
The US embassy in Kabul earlier in the week issued an "emergency message" to citizens, warning them to avoid Qala-e-Fatullah because of an imminent threat to foreigners. Several non-governmental organizations have their headquarters in the neighborhood, which also has a number of guest houses that are popular with foreigners.
Recent weeks have seen a marked deterioration in security in the Afghan capital, with Taliban insurgents intensifying their war against the government.
The Taliban has denied responsibility for a truck bombing earlier this month that killed 15 people and injured more than 250. However, it did claim responsibility for an attack on the capital's airport that killed five.
A Dutch woman working for a Swiss agency was kidnapped in the area in June, and is still missing.
A German working for GIZ was kidnapped earlier this year on a highway in the northern part of Kunduz province, in the distant north of the country. He escaped in May, after being held for six weeks.
rc/cmk (AP, dpa, Reuters)