A number of bus passengers on Sunday voiced concerns over the lack of security along the Kabul-Kandahar highway and accused government of not ensuring their safety.
This comes a day after 17 bus passengers were forcibly taken off four buses by unknown gunmen on Saturday on the highway.
There has however been conflicting reports on the situation with tribal elders stating 17 bus passengers are still being held hostage by insurgents.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said that there had been 16 hostages, nine of whom had been released. Seven others are still being held captive, he said.
Sediqqi said: “Nine hostages have been released and efforts are underway for the release of the remaining seven. Due to security concerns we cannot disclose the motive behind the kidnappings.”
However, tribal elders from Zabul said there were 17 hostages in total and that none had been released. They also said a delegation of elders were in talks with the insurgents in a bid to secure their release.
Meanwhile on Sunday, a number of people who regularly use buses on the Kabul-Kandahar highway called on government to take action over the growing problem.
Khair Mohammad, one regular commuter said: “We are very apprehensive when traveling on the highway lest we be captured by Taliban or Daesh.”
Another passenger, Nasima, said that she has sleepless nights over the issue of kidnapping.
“The government must secure this highway so we can travel in peace,” she said.
Another passenger, Hussain, said: “When we became aware of this kidnapping we were very frightened.”
However, Abdul Sabor, who was on one of the buses when gunmen kidnapped the passengers on Saturday, said: “It was about 2:20am when we left Kabul and as we passed Shah Joy district the kidnappers stopped our bus and climbed on board.”
“The faces of the kidnappers were covered and they asked everyone what province they come from. Eventually they took the hostages,” another eyewitness Noor Ahmad said.
However, when called about security on buses, bus companies would not comment.
This latest incident took place a mere 24 km away from the point where Daesh militants kidnapped 31 bus passengers in February. Following the release of most hostages, the last five were freed a week ago.
However, this comes close on the heels of the Zabul Seven incident, which saw the beheading of seven other hostages early this month after being kidnapped by Daesh almost two months ago.
The seven victims, including three women, were also kidnapped while traveling between Zabul and Ghazni provinces. They were beheaded earlier this month allegedly by Daesh members.
The incident sparked a massive demonstration through the streets of Kabul two weeks ago. About 20,000 demonstrators carried their bodies through the streets of the capital, calling for justice and an end to the kidnappings.
No group has however claimed responsibility for Saturday’s incident.