American Woman Is Kidnapped in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, — An American woman and her Afghan driver were kidnapped by gunmen in this southern town Saturday morning on her way to work, the provincial governor said.

No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction, he said.

The woman, Sidney Misal, 49, was working for a nongovernmental organization, the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation, and had been living in southern Kandahar since 2002, said the governor, Asadullah Khalid.

The governor blamed those who were against Afghanistan and its reconstruction for the abduction. “Whoever they are, they’re the enemies of the country, the enemy of Islam and the enemy of Afghanistan,” he said.

The police were searching for Ms. Misal, who was wearing the all-enveloping burqa on her way to work at 8 a.m., Mr. Khalid said.

“This is against Afghan culture to abduct a woman,” Mr. Khalid said. “She trusted the Afghan nation and respected them, that’s why she was traveling without security guards and actually she didn’t ask for security.

“This kind of incident is rare in Kandahar.”

Taliban insurgents and criminals gangs have carried out many kidnappings in Afghanistan, often for ransom. Although most hostages have been released, the Taliban have also killed some foreign hostages.

The most recent case was the kidnapping of 23 South Korean hostages, most of them women, by the Taliban in July. Two men were killed, but the women were released after South Korea reaffirmed a pledge to withdraw its 200 troops from Afghanistan by the end of last year, and there was speculation of a ransom.

Kandahar, the former spiritual capital of the Taliban government, is one of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan. The Taliban have a broad presence in much of rural southern Afghanistan and have mounted suicide attacks and shootings in the city. Only a small number of foreigners live there, and they move around with extreme caution.

According to a fellow worker at the foundation, Abdul Hamid, Ms. Misal speaks the local language, Pashto, fluently, and had been in Kandahar for six years.

“She has been here since the beginning and was mainly working in education in Kandahar schools, especially for girls, and also working on agricultural projects,” the governor said.

Her organization works closely with Kandahar University, supporting English and computer classes for students and the agriculture faculty. It also runs an agricultural farm and nursery.

Carlotta Gall reported from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar.

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