Kidnappings in Afghanistan Raise Security Concerns for Aid Workers

The already tense situation in the Afghan capital, Kabul, has become more acute after an Afghan militant group kidnapped three UN workers in the city last week.

The capture of the three UN election monitors has realized the worst fears of aid workers in Afghanistan, says Teena Roberts, who runs UK-based Christian Aid's operation in Afghanistan.

For aid workers in Afghanistan, the fear of kidnapping has been on everyone's mind in their tight-knit community, especially after recent events in Iraq.

“We live in the same region as Iraq and Pakistan and, in the back of our minds, there has been this hope that the insurgents in Afghanistan won't learn from their counterparts in Iraq,” Roberts said. “But this is a major change. It means it is a whole new security situation.”

In London, Christian Aid's regional manager, Robin Greenwood says, “There has been an on-going security threat to aid workers in Afghanistan and Kabul for some months now.”

However, according to Christian Aid, the relief agency’s staff in Afghanistan is still working in the country, though all unnecessary movement has been curtailed and extra security measures have been put in place.

“Christian Aid has taken these threats extremely seriously and in response we have, over the past weeks, kept a very low profile,” Greenwood said. “We have suspended field visits to projects and have from time to time closed our offices and instruct staff to work from home.”

Greenwood added, “The current situation is of deep concern to our staff. 'All staff have been confined to their homes or offices. Staff are, in effect, in hibernation. No staff will move until further notice.”

According to Reuters, the Afghan militant group that kidnapped three UN workers has threatened to kill the three unless authorities meet a series of demands including the release of all Taliban prisoners, the withdrawal of US troops and the suspension of UN operations in the country

The group told the government and United Nations on Thursday to stop stalling negotiations, adding the hostages were cold and sick.

Religious groups and political leaders have condemned the abductions.