Afghan official says Taliban block roads, kidnap civilians

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GARDEZ, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban militants blocked roads in an eastern province of Afghanistan bordering Pakistan, forcing cars to stop and kidnapping the occupants at gunpoint, an Afghan official said Saturday.

Gen. Zelmai Oryakhail, the police chief of Paktia province, said a number of civilian vehicles had been stopped by Taliban gunmen in Sayad Karm district early in the morning.

Six people were still being held out of the 22 initially abducted, he said, adding that police reinforcements have been deployed in an attempt to free the remaining captives.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in tweets from an account associated with the group.

Afghanistan's eastern provinces long have harbored insurgent groups, including the Taliban and the brutal Haqqani network, who wage attacks on police checkpoints, plant roadside bombs and target government installations.

The Taliban launched their annual spring offensive in late April with a huge assault on the northern city of Kunduz, taking authorities by surprise. Mass kidnappings appear to be a new strategy.

Also on Saturday, in northern Sari Pul province, four policemen were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb, according to Gen. Noor Habib Gulbahari, the provincial police chief. He said another three policemen were wounded in the explosion.

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