Bad news out of Afghanistan’s northern Baghlan province. Five UN workers went missing yesterday, and reports indicate that the five Afghans, all employees the UN Office of Project Services (UNOPS), were kidnapped as they drove back from a site visit. The Baghlan police chief has told the press that the aid workers are now being held by the Taliban and police are working with tribal elders in the area to secure their safe release.
Afghanistan has long been a dangerous country for aid workers, but its northern provinces were seen as relatively safe until last year, when violence began to spike in areas like Baghlan and Kunduz, where the Taliban have pried control away from under-resourced and ineffective local government.
Security in Baghlan is increasingly resembling that in Afghanistan’s violence-wracked south. Eleven days ago, a female member of Baghlan’s provincial council was badly wounded in an assassination attempt. Then, on April 16, four German soldiers with the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force and three Afghan police officers were killed by Taliban insurgents in a nearby district.