boston.com your connection to The Boston Globe

Aid worker kidnapped in Kabul

Taliban: Talks on S. Koreans failed

Afghan police searched a section of Kabul after four armed men kidnapped a German aid worker who was dining with her husband at a restaurant yesterday. The woman worked for a small Christian organization called Ora International. Afghan police searched a section of Kabul after four armed men kidnapped a German aid worker who was dining with her husband at a restaurant yesterday. The woman worked for a small Christian organization called Ora International. (PAULA BRONSTEIN/GETTY IMAGES)

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Four armed assailants kidnapped a German aid worker dining with her husband at a restaurant in Kabul in a bold midday attack, as the Taliban said negotiations for the release of 19 remaining South Korean hostages have failed.

Meanwhile, a suicide car bomb attack killed 15 people and wounded 26, including several women and children, in Afghanistan's southern city of Kandahar.

The abduction of the 31-year-old German woman, who works for a small Christian aid organization along with her husband, prompted police in Kabul to shoot at the speeding getaway car, killing a nearby taxi driver.

The assailants had pulled up to the barbecue and fast food restaurant in a dark gray Toyota Corolla, and one of the men went inside and pretended to order a pizza, said intelligence officials investigating the abduction.

They said two other men waited outside, while another remained in the car.

The man in the restaurant pulled out a pistol, walked up to a table where the German couple was sitting, and took the woman outside, the officials said on condition of anonymity because of agency policy.

Ahmad Fahim, who works in a nearby bakery, said a man called for help as his wife was taken away.

"The man was shouting 'Police! Police!' " and was frantically making calls on his mobile phone, Fahim said.

The woman works for the Ora International aid group, based in the central German town of Korbach, said Ulf Baumann, a spokesman for the organization.

Baumann did not further identify the woman, but said she spoke fluent Dari and had worked for the group in Kabul since September 2006, along with her husband, who is also German.

According to the organization's website, Ora International concentrates its efforts in Afghanistan on health issues and HIV/AIDS awareness.

UN staff in Kabul were told to restrict their movements as authorities investigated the abduction, a UN official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on security matters. Other foreigners were also placed under tight security.

Germany's Foreign Ministry confirmed the kidnapping and said it was working with Afghan officials toward a resolution.

The latest kidnapping occurred amid heightened fears of abductions after 23 South Koreans and two Germans were taken hostage in separate incidents last month in central Afghanistan.

One of the German men was shot to death. The other remains in captivity.

Taliban militants killed two of the South Koreans and released two others after face-to-face talks with South Korean officials.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said the group's demands for the release of the remaining 19 South Koreans remains the same -- a swap for Taliban prisoners, which the Afghan government has ruled out.

"We're still ready for more negotiations if the Korean side is willing to meet our demands. . . . The exchange of prisoners," he said.

The Afghan and Italian governments were heavily criticized after swapping five Taliban prisoners for the release of an Italian journalist in March. The Afghan government, worried that hostage-taking will become an industry, said the prisoner swap was a one-time deal.

Separately yesterday, a suicide bomber detonated near a convoy of private security forces west of Kandahar, killing 15 people including three women and two children, police said.

Four security guards were among the dead, while the attack wounded six guards and 20 civilians who were riding in two minivans that were hit by the blast, said Kandahar provincial police chief Syed Agha Saqib.

Saqib said the Afghan guards worked for an American security firm called US Protection and Investigations.

Violence in Afghanistan has risen sharply during the last two months. This year more than 3,700 people -- most of them militants -- have died, according to an Associated Press tally.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES