Australia probes Afghan kidnap claim

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Australia was scrambling Friday to verify reports that an aid worker from Perth has been kidnapped by armed men in Afghanistan.

The woman was taken in the city of Jalalabad, close to the border with Pakistan, on Thursday, a government official in the area told AFP.

“She visited the city of Jalalabad for a women’s embroidery project,” said Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, of which Jalalabad is the capital.

“And unknown masked gunmen abducted her from Police District 2 of Jalalabad city.”

He added that the kidnappers, disguised as police, grabbed her at 4am from a home in which she was staying with other women working on the project.

Nangarhar police chief Zrawer Zahed confirmed the abduction.

“A foreign woman, probably Australian, was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in Jalalabad city,” he said.

She arrived on Wednesday evening and was believed to work for the Danish Committee for Aid to Refugees, an NGO that has been in Afghanistan since 1984, he added.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said the woman was from the western city of Perth.

“The Australian government is working to confirm the reported kidnapping of an Australian in Afghanistan,” the department of foreign affairs said.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was quoted by the broadcaster as saying the government was liaising with Afghan authorities to find out more.

“We are in close contact with the family, we are working with Afghan authorities but at this stage there are still a number of matters that need to be confirmed before I can say anything more publicly about it,” she said.

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