- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 19, 2007

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Four armed assailants kidnapped a German aid worker dining with her husband at a restaurant in Kabul in a brazen 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 persons and wounded 26, including several women and children, in Afghanistan’s southern city of Kandahar.

Four security guards were among the dead, said Kandahar provincial police chief Syed Agha Saqib. He said the Afghan guards worked for a U.S. security firm called U.S. Protection and Investigations.

The abduction of the 31-year-old German woman, who works for a small Christian aid organization along with her husband, prompted police 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 the condition of anonymity because of agency policy.

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. He 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 Web site, Ora International concentrates its efforts in Afghanistan on health issues and HIV/AIDS awareness.

U.N. staff in Kabul were told to restrict their movements yesterday as authorities investigated the abduction, a U.N. official said. Other foreigners were also placed under tight security.

The latest kidnapping took place 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 fatally shot. 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.

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