Officials said Tuesday that they are doing all they can to secure the release of the 10 bus passengers kidnapped on Saturday while traveling through Zabul province.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, National Directorate of Security (NDS) chief Rahmatullah Nabil said the hostages are being held in Sharjoy district in Zabul and local elders are in discussions with the kidnappers to secure their release.
However, reports have emerged that a local Taliban commander, Taqwa, who is reportedly behind this kidnapping, has demanded the return of more than 400 sheep in exchange for the hostages. The sheep were allegedly stolen from them recently by residents of Behsud district in central Wardak province.
Zabul police commander, Mirwais Norzai, who confirmed the number of hostages was 10 and not 20 nor 17 as earlier reported, said: “They were 10 passengers …. They were on their way when they were taken out of the car.”
Local officials have however emphasized efforts are underway for the release of the hostages.
Deputy head of Zabul provincial council Mohammad Omar Omari said: “As we have done in the past, we asked Zabul elders to help us. They have already met with the kidnappers.”
Police chief of Zabul Ghulam Jailani Farahi said: “Talks are being held with them and I assure you we will soon have good news.”
Meanwhile Kabul officials have also spoken of their efforts to secure the release of the hostages.
Nabil said: “The hostages are in Shah Joy city in Zabul now. Struggles are on and tribal elders are cooperating in this regard.”
The Ministry of Interior also said Tuesday that efforts are underway to secure the country’s highways.
MoI Minister Nooralhuq Olomi said: “We are trying to take proper measures for highways security and we will fill all the gaps in this aspect. We need people’s cooperation.”
The bus passengers were kidnapped early Saturday morning while traveling along the Zabul-Kabul highway.
The hostages, from Zabul province, where reportedly taken off buses at a single point along the highway, said local officials.
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 about two weeks 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.