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UK envoy kidnapped by Afghans

A BRITISH diplomat was among three European envoys kidnapped yesterday by armed Afghans after travelling from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Jack Dodds of Britain, Stefen Chalt of Germany and Gert Piening of the Netherlands, engaged in drug liaison work, were en route to the southern Afghan city of Kandahar when their vehicle was held up, the assistant commissioner in the Pakistani border town of Chaman said. Mr Dodds is one of nine diplomats at Britain's Deputy High Commission in Karachi.

Pakistani officials in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province, said the three men were abducted on the Afghan side of the Spin Boldak border post, but a source in Islamabad said the kidnapping occurred at the Pakistani border town of Chaman.

The area between Quetta and the Afghan city of Kandahar is a notoriously lawless centre of arms and drug trafficking, and reports of kidnappings for ransom and clashes between Pakistani militia and criminal gangs are common. Amail Kansi, a Pakistani from Quetta suspected of shooting dead two people and wounding three others outside the headquarters of the CIA in Virginia last January, is believed to have gone into hiding somewhere in the region after returning to Pakistan from the US.

According to diplomats and local officials, the three, all in their 30s, were only supposed to go to Quetta on a professional mission, but then went on further in the company of four Pakistani officials. 'They were in a group of seven people who went to Afghanistan. The three never returned. Four did,' said a Dutch diplomat. Asked why they had gone there, he said: 'Good question. We don't have an answer.'

Western officials say Afghanistan is the world's leading opium exporter, with the collapse of authority making it even harder to control the outflow, much of it through Pakistan. Several countries have posted officials to Pakistan to liaise with local law enforcement agencies.