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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 October, 2004, 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK
Grave concern for NI hostage
The family run a furniture store in Richhill
The family run a furniture store in Richhill
The family of kidnapped Northern Ireland woman Annetta Flanigan are gravely concerned for her safety, their minister has said.

She was one of three foreign election workers kidnapped in the Afghanistan capital Kabul.

Mrs Flanigan is from Richhill in County Armagh.

It is understood she and her husband had planned to return home to Northern Ireland for Christmas.

She was providing technical assistance for parliamentary elections due to be held next April.

Mrs Flanigan's mother, Esther, is a member of the Mothers' Union at St Matthew's Church of Ireland in Richhill.

The rector, the Reverend David Coe, said: "Obviously the family is gravely concerned about the situation and what more can you say?

QUICK GUIDE

"The family just want time and space to try and come terms with this."

Mrs Flanigan, a graduate of Queen's University in Belfast, worked as a solicitor in Portadown, County Armagh.

She has previously worked in Bosnia and Rwanda.

She carries joint British and Irish nationality.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern condemned the kidnapping and called for the immediate and unconditional release of those taken.

Mr Ahern said he was following the situation closely, including through the UN offices on the ground and through the Irish Embassy in Tehran.

DUP assembly member Paul Berry said he was shocked to learn of the kidnapping.

"This is a very worrying development and I would call upon Tony Blair and the British Government to do all in their power to try and seek the release of the hostages," he said.

The BBC's Andrew North in Kabul says it is unclear if they were targeted because of election links, or for being foreigners.

A group called the Army of Muslims says it is holding them outside Kabul.

"There was indeed a kidnapping. The victims were international staff with the electoral commission here in Kabul," UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told the Associated Press news agency.

Junior diplomat

He refused to speculate on a motive for the kidnapping and would not reveal the names of the hostages.

The three foreigners have been kidnapped by us - we are taking them to some safe place outside Kabul
Army of Muslims

Confirming one of the three - Mrs Flanigan - held dual British-Irish nationality, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said: "We are in touch with the family."

The Philippines government said it was praying for the safe release of one of its junior diplomats, Angelito Nayan, and his co-workers.

The kidnapping - the first of foreigners in broad daylight in Kabul - has sent shock waves through the expatriate community.

Foreign aid workers and UN staff have been ordered back to their compounds and told to remain there or in other safe havens until further notice.

Observers say the fear is that foreign workers could now be targets in Afghanistan in the same way that they are in Iraq.

The abducted workers are part of a joint United Nations and Afghan government team that organised the election and has been conducting the vote count since polling day on 9 October.

Richhill in County Armagh
Mrs Flanigan is from Richhill in County Armagh

On Wednesday, with 99% of votes counted, the front runner and interim president, Hamid Karzai, was far ahead of his rivals.

The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said that the workers were seized after being stopped by a four-wheel drive vehicle near Karteh Parwan, a relatively affluent area of north-west Kabul near the Intercontinental Hotel.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
BBC NI's Chris Buckler:
"She has previously worked in Bosnia and Rwanda"


Confusion over why the poll workers were seized




FROM OTHER NEWS SITES:
ABCNEWS.com Afghan Group Threatens to Kill Foreign Hostages - 43 mins ago
Xinhua News Agency Philippines says UN leads efforts for Filipino hostage's release - 43 mins ago
MSNBC Afghans Arrest Three Over Foreigner Kidnappings - 1 hr ago
Herald Tribune Afghan Aid Workers Restrict Movements - 1 hr ago
Sky News Afghanistan: Threat To Kill Hostages - 1 hr ago
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