Nineteen kidnapped Afghans released, 12 more could be freed soon: officials

By Mustafa Andalib GHAZNI, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Nineteen Afghan men from among 31 kidnapped by gunmen from a bus in February were freed on Monday by their captors, and the rest could be released soon, officials said. The men are Hazaras, members of a largely Shi’ite Muslim ethnic minority persecuted under the Taliban movement’s Sunni Islamist rule, although sectarian violence has been rare since the Taliban was ousted by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001. The kidnapping increased anxiety among the Hazaras, who fear becoming targets in a new, sectarian phase of Afghanistan’s long war with Taliban insurgents and other Islamist militants. President Ashraf Ghani said government efforts led to the release of the 19 passengers.

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