KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban militants have abducted about 50 young men who were planning to join the national police in the eastern province of Kunar, security officials said Sunday.
"These were youths from Vaigal district of Nuristan province who came to the provincial center in hopes of joining the police force," Gen.Shamsul Rehman Zahid Nuristani, the police chief for the Nuristan province, said of the raid, which took place Saturday.
Zabiullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban insurgents, claimed responsibility for the abduction in a statement posted on the militants' website - but asserted that the would-be recruits were police.
"Today around noon time 50 police of the puppet regime, all unarmed, who came from Nuristan province to this area, were arrested during an armed ambush in Kunar province," the statement said.
Taliban insurgents are engaged in regular attacks against anyone affiliated with he U.S.-backed Afghan government.
Nuristan and Kunar are two remote provinces in eastern Afghanistan on the long border with neighboring Pakistan. Afghan officials blame Pakistan for not doing enough to crack down on militants who cross the border into Afghanistan.
Nuristani said the would-be recruits were told that there was "no shortage of police in this province, if (more are) needed we'll call you." It was on the way back to their home villages that Taliban insurgents detained them, in Chapa Dara district in Kunar province.
He said the authorities had sent local elders to negotiate with the Taliban for the release of the men. "We hope they will be set free soon," he said.
Gen.Kalilullah Ziayee the police chief for Kunar province confirmed the incident. " Around 10 on Saturday morning about 30-40 men all in civilians clothes who coming from Nuristan toward Kunar province were detained by the Taliban insurgents," Ziayee said.
Also a NATO soldier was died after being struck by an improvised explosive device (IED) Sunday in southern Afghanistan, according to the headquarters of international forces in Kabul. The statement gave no details about the exact location of the incident or the nationality of the killed soldier.
The Taliban are stepping up their attacks against Afghan and foreign troops as the Afghan government prepares to assume security responsibilities from NATO forces starting from July this year, culminating in what is hoped to be a complete takeover by 2014.
Afghan president Hamid Karzai last week announced that Afghans will take control of security in seven locations including Lashkar Gah, in the center of the volatile southern Helmand province.
(Shukoor is a McClatchy special correspondent)
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