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Last Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007, 06:15 GMT 07:15 UK
South Koreans held in Afghanistan
At least 16 South Korean citizens have been abducted by Taleban insurgents in Afghanistan, officials say.

A government spokesman in Seoul said there were women among the kidnapped.

Afghan officials have confirmed the incident. They said the Koreans were taken while travelling in a bus from Kandahar city to the capital, Kabul.

Two Germans who were kidnapped near Kabul on Wednesday are still untraced. Many foreign citizens have been abducted in Afghanistan since 2001.

'No information'

"We obtained an intelligence report that some 20 South Koreans were abducted by Taleban insurgents this morning (Friday) and are now trying to confirm it through various channels," reports quoting a South Korean foreign ministry statement said.

"Considering a variety of circumstantial evidence, chances are high that the report is true," the statement added.

The governor of Qarabagh district in Ghazni province, Khowaja Mohammad Siddiqi, confirmed the kidnappings to BBC, but said only 16 South Koreans were taken.

Mr Siddiqi said they had no information that South Koreans were in the area or about their travel plans.

He said the incident took place on Thursday afternoon. The insurgents had earlier taken the bus driver too, but he was later released.

A local Taleban commander, Mohammad Sharif, has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, news agency Reuters reports.

The abducted Koreans were young Christian evangelists, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says the area has seen heightened activity by Taleban militants in the recent months.

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