Gunmen kidnap campaign workers in Afghanistan

KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban insurgents abducted five people campaigning on Wednesday for a leading candidate in Afghanistan’s presidential election, officials said.

They were campaigning in northwest Badghis province for former foreign minister Dr Abdullah Abdullah, who is running second to incumbent President Hamid Karzai in the Aug. 20 poll.

Abdullah’s representative complained the government had not provided them with security.

“We informed the government about our trip ... but we got none,” said Abdul Ghafar Jalali, a press officer for Abdullah’s campaign office in Badghis.

“We hold the government responsible,” he said.

Badghis deputy governor Abdul Ghani Saberi confirmed the abduction, but said Abdullah’s campaign office had not asked for protection.

“We know five people were kidnapped by two local Taliban commanders and elders are in negotiations to get them freed,” Saberi told Reuters.

Last month the Afghan government said it had struck a ceasefire with insurgents in some districts of Badghis to allow people to vote.

Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst levels since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 and attacks on election campaigners and candidates have increased ahead of a poll the Islamist group has vowed to disrupt.