Tajikistan seeks to free two kidnapped by Afghan smugglers

AFP , Monday 28 Mar 2016

Tajikistan said Monday it was negotiating the release of two of its citizens thought to have been kidnapped by Afghan smugglers in a cross-border raid last week.

A spokesman for the ex-Soviet country's border service, Muhammad Uglughodjayev, told AFP the government was "in talks for the urgent release of two citizens taken hostage and abducted into Afghanistan".

The two Tajiks who were working for a road building company in the region were snatched on Friday close to the border by Afghan smugglers, the spokesman said.

He hinted that representatives of the smuggling gang were involved in negotiations for the pair's release.

One other Tajik citizen was injured in the border raid, the border service said, denying local media reports of fatalities.

Military sources told AFP the group responsible is a well-known gang of Afghan drug smugglers seeking to swap the Tajik captives for a fellow smuggler arrested on the Tajik border in the past week.

Incidents of hostage-taking across the 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) Afghan-Tajik border are not uncommon and are sometimes linked to failed drug deals.

Tajikistan, the poorest former Soviet republic, straddles drug trafficking routes that flow from Afghanistan through Central Asia and into Europe.

Afghanistan has long been the world's largest producer of opium and heroin, with profits from the illicit trade helping to fund Taliban insurgents.

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