KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A group of 57 civilian de-miners was released on Tuesday just hours after being after captured by unknown gunmen in western Afghanistan, officials said.
The governor of Herat province, Faizullah Wahidi, said the de-miners — all Afghan — were released unconditionally after being abducted in the Pashtun Zargun district as they drove to an area that needed to be cleared of mines.
Wahidi did not know who kidnapped the de-miners or why. He said police were investigating.
All the men worked for the British-based HALO trust, which specializes in removing hazardous mines and other ordinance left over from wars. HALO confirmed the kidnapping and release.
After 30 years of near continuous conflict and war, Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.
Although the Taliban plant mines and roadside bombs, they general do not hamper the work of civilian de-miners who work to clear farmlands and other common land of old explosives.