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Abducted passengers in ISIS custody: Zabul PC

AT Monitoring Desk-KABUL: The provincial council (PC) office and a number of MPs in southern Zabul province said Saturday that the abducted passengers (ethnic Hazaras) were still alive and were in the custody of armed men linked to the international militant group—ISIS or Daesh.

Radio Azadi quoted the head of Zabul provincial council, Ata Jan Haqparast, as saying that a number of members of the High Peace Council (HPC) and local elders had visited Khak Afghan district to release the abducted passengers.

He said the ISIS militants avoided to talk with the elders and the provincial council members. “A jirga, assembly or local delegation, comprised of ex-Jihadi figures, religious scholars and tribal elders have traveled to Khak Afghan district. The abductors are armed men linked to Daesh have established camps there but have avoided to talk with the delegation,” he said. “There is an optimism as we are in contact with the Taliban elders—from Shahjoi to Quetta, as well as local elders and commanders. Through this, we are trying to release the abducted passengers from the armed men linked to Daesh.

Nearly 30 passengers who were returning from Iran were abducted late Monday night in areas related to Shahjoi district. Though there is no exact information about the abductors but the provincial council head said the passengers had been abducted by armed men linked to Daesh.

According to him, Khak Afghan is among insecure districts of Zabul which is now under the control of militants.

Haqparast said the Taliban in the district set two-day deadline for the tribal elders to release the abducted passenger from the custody of armed men linked to ISIS.

In the meantime, a number of representatives of Zabul in the parliament said the Taliban militants have vowed the tribal elders to leave no stone unturned in releasing the abducted people.

Radio Azadi, quoted MP Hamidullah Tokhi, as saying that the abducted individuals were alive and are safe.

The police chief of Zabul, Ghulam Sakhi Rogh Liwanai, said they have paid all out efforts to release the abducted men. “The tribal elders who were sent to Khak Afghan have returned. The Taliban have asked for four days time to search all houses in the district and find the abducted passengers. This is good news for us,” he added. He said the Taliban have found the location and have promised to find the abducted men. “Besides that, we have assigned detective agencies to find the location and we are prepared to act anytime we are informed,” he added.

It comes as the governor of Zabul, Mohammad Ashraf Nasiri, said latest on Friday that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Chechen militants were behind abduction of the 30 passengers.

Abduction of the passengers has raised concerns among those who travel through Kabul-Kandahar Highway. A number of passengers said the highway was not safe to travel following the incident. They urged the government to not only release the abducted passengers but also beef up security at the highway.

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