Officials: Gunmen kidnap 30 Hazaras in southern Afghanistan
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) Gunmen in southern Afghanistan kidnapped 30 members of the Hazara ethnic community, authorities said Tuesday, in what appeared to be the latest in a series of attacks on Shiites in the predominantly Sunni country.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack Monday afternoon, nor demanded a ransom, police and officials said.
The gunmen kidnapped the 30 people, all men, from two vehicles on a major road in Zabul province, provincial Gov. Mohammad Ashraf said. He said all women, children and non-Hazaras were left behind.
Authorities were searching for those kidnapped, some of whom may be government officials, Ashraf said.
Abdul Khaliq Ayubi, a local government official, said the gunmen all wore black clothing and black masks.
The Hazara, who account for as much as 25 percent of Afghanistan's population, are a largely Shiite ethnic minority in predominantly Sunni Afghanistan. The group has been targeted by the Taliban and other Sunni extremists in neighboring Pakistan.
In recent years, sectarian attacks against Shiite and Hazara communities have been rare, though community leaders say they appear to be on the rise.
The predominantly ethnic Pashtun and Sunni Taliban persecuted the Hazara minority during their 1996-2001 rule that imposed a radical interpretation of Islamic law on the country.
Associated Press writer Amir Shah in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this story.