Afghans clash with abductors of Japanese aid worker

JALALABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Afghan police clashed with the kidnappers of a male Japanese aid worker in eastern Nangarhar province on Tuesday, freeing the man’s local driver, a police spokesman said.

The Japanese aid worker was seized earlier on Tuesday while he worked on a construction project in the Daraye Noor area of Nangarhar, provincial police spokesman Ghafour Khan said.

“In the clash, one kidnapper was also wounded and efforts are underway to release the Japanese,” he said.

Provincial spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai earlier described the abductors as unidentified armed men. Taliban insurgents, who have been behind a series of abduction of Afghans and foreigners in recent years, said they had no information about the incident.

Japan does not have troops in Afghanistan, but its navy runs a maritime refueling operation in support of U.S.-led military operations in the country.

Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it was looking into the possible kidnapping of the aid worker after its embassy in Kabul had received information about the incident from a U.N. body.

The man worked for a Japanese non-governmental organization called Peshawar-kai, according to Japan’s Kyodo news agency.

Peshawar-kai, based in southern Japan, was set up in 1983 and provides medical services in Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to its website.

The group could not be reached immediately for comment.

Japan’s refueling mission is set to become a focal point of a session of parliament to be convened next month.

Unpopular Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda wants to extend the mission in the Indian Ocean after legislation expires in January.

But the opposition-controlled upper house will almost certainly reject a new bill to do so and the junior partner in the ruling coalition is wary of upsetting voters, many of whom oppose prolonging the mission, by forcing through the bill.

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