Kabul sends interlocutors to secure Hazaras’ release



A senior Afghan leader has said that he has sent negotiators to Pakistan to secure the release of 30 members of the Shia Hazara community who were kidnapped in southern Afghanistan last month.

Masked gunmen in military fatigues had seized the Hazara men in Zabul province on February 24. They were en route to Kabul from Iran in buses. The Taliban insist they are not behind the kidnapping. No other group has so far claimed responsibility.

Second Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan Muhammad Mohaqiq said he had sent unofficial delegations to Quetta and Karachi for talks on the release of the Hazara men. Mohaqiq, himself a senior Hazara community leader, did not say who the delegations negotiated with.

There are speculations in Afghanistan that supporters of militant groups, including the Islamic State or elements linked to the Dadullah Front could be behind the kidnapping. Mansoor Dadullah, a senior Taliban commander, said last month that he would organise the followers of his brother Mullah Dadullah Akhud, who once headed the Taliban military wing, and was killed in southern Afghanistan in 2007.

Zabul’s acting governor Muhammad Ashraf Nasiri had blamed the abduction on the local Taliban, Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Chechen militants. Kidnappings for ransom are common in Afghanistan and involvement of criminal gangs could not be ruled out.