ANKARA - TDN with wire dispatches
Two Turkish engineers kidnapped in western Afghanistan last week have been set free and have returned to Turkey, authorities said yesterday.
The Turks were taken to Elazığ in eastern Turkey via a private airplane hired by the construction company they work for and were welcomed by their relatives.
Afghan police said their employers might have paid a ransom to secure their freedom. However, the company denied the claims that they paid a ransom. "There has been no ransom or a price," one of the owners of the company was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.
Kidnapping has become a lucrative business in Afghanistan and scores of locals and foreigners have been abducted by criminals or Taliban-linked militants in recent years.
The Turkish nationals were working on a project in the western town of Islam Qala, bordering Iran. The pair was released last night, the police chief for the western zone said.
"Their company might have paid a ransom to the captors and bought their freedom," Ikramuddin Yawar told Reuters.
"Paying ransom to release people further encourages kidnapping in the country," he said, adding the abductors were part of a group of former factional forces who abandoned support for the government two years ago.
Gökhan Gül and Erhan Gündüz were both working for the Turkish construction company Gülsan İnşaat. The company declined to comment on whether any ransom had been paid.
Islam Qala is on the main border crossing with Iran, a place where there is little Taliban activity. Criminals, however, have carried out kidnappings in the past and handed over their captives to the Taliban in return for money.
Two French aid workers were abducted in recent days in central Afghanistan, prompting their organization, Action Against Hunger, to suspend activities in protest.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for their kidnapping.
Ousted from power in 2001, Taliban insurgents have been behind a number of kidnappings in Afghanistan. Some hostages have been killed, but most of the victims have been released unharmed.
The insurgents kidnapped 23 South Koreans last year, killing two and releasing the rest more than a month later.