KABUL/BERLIN (Reuters) - A German woman abducted by gunmen in Afghanistan has been freed, the German Foreign Ministry said on Sunday hours after she appeared in a video asking Berlin to use every effort to gain her freedom.
Christina Barbara Meier, an aid worker, had been seized from a Kabul restaurant while having lunch with her husband on Saturday. Her kidnapping was the first of a Westerner in the Afghan capital for more than two years.
“The kidnapped woman is now at the German embassy,” a German foreign ministry spokeswoman said.
In the video, the blonde aid worker had worn a long headscarf and a red local outfit and read from a note in Dari.
“I am fine ... I ask my country to urgently help and cooperate for my release,” she had said in the video aired by private television station Tolo, adding she was an employee of “ORA International” aid agency.
A bespectacled young man who had covered his face appeared on the video to say the abductors were not Taliban, adding they belonged to a “special network”.
He demanded the release of the group’s men held by President Hamid Karzai’s government. He did not give any figure or names, adding details would be passed to the government through special channels.
The Afghan Interior Ministry said the abductors were not Taliban guerrillas who have seized more than 30 people, many of them foreigners, in several parts of the country in recent weeks.
It said the culprits could be members of a criminal gang, but added their motive was not known.
Suspected criminal gangs have abducted a number of Westerners in Kabul, but have released them unharmed, usually after a ransom was paid.
Crime has jumped in recent years in some areas of Afghanistan, where weapons are abundant. The kidnapping of Afghans usually does not draw much Western media attention.
The Taliban demand the withdrawal of German troops serving with NATO forces from Afghanistan but Berlin has ruled that out.
The Afghan government is trying to win the release of 19 South Korean hostages and a German male aid worker seized at separate locations by Taliban last month to the southwest of Kabul.
The Taliban have killed two of the Korean Christian volunteers, but freed two women from the group last week as a gesture of goodwill during talks with Korean diplomats.
The Taliban have also killed one German man and are holding four of his Afghan colleagues.