The Afghan military forces launched a rescue operation in southern Zabul province on Monday night to free the 30 Hazara passengers who were kidnapped by unknown masked men, an Afghan security official, on condition of anonymity, said.
The operation was launched in Khak-e-Afghan district of Zabul and is still underway. So far, 36 insurgents have been killed and 50 others injured. Leading the operation is Kandahar Police Chief Gen. Abdul Raziq, Military Commander of Atal 205th Corps Maj. Gen. Abdul Hamid Hamid, and Zabul security officials.
This comes after the 25-member mediation team of Zabul elders were in talks with the insurgents on Saturday on releasing the abducted passengers, but to no prevail.
Recently, the Zabul acting Governor Mohammad Ashraf Nasiri had warned that if negotiations between the tribal elders and the armed masked men did not triumph that military action will be taken.
However, the families of the abductees still wait on news about the fate of their beloved ones, keeping eyes at their doors for the past nine days.
“I want my dad back home,” said a little daughter of Khudabakhsh, the abducted passenger who was returning from Herat to Kabul after taking her sister to a hospital.
His family called on the government to help their beloved ones return home safe and sound.
“He called me early Monday morning that he is departing from Herat to Kabul,” Khudabakhsh’s wife said. “I asked him when he will arrive, he replied ‘God willing, possibly this evening’.”
In an attempt to identify the armed masked men, Nasiri had recently blamed the abduction on local Taliban, the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants and the Chechens.
There has been no clarification on who the armed masked men are and who their affiliation is, but speculations from security officials battling against the masked men indicate that they are Daesh.
The 30 passengers, specifically belonging to the Hazara ethnic minority, were abducted last week from Shah Joy district of Zabul as they were on their way to Kabul on the Kabul-Kandahar highway.