Image: An Afghan policeman keeps guard in front of the office of Asian Rural Life Development Foundation.
Allauddin Khan  /  AP
An Afghan policeman keeps guard Saturday in front of the office of Asian Rural Life Development Foundation where the kidnapped American aid worker worked.
updated 1/26/2008 3:44:02 PM ET 2008-01-26T20:44:02

Gunmen kidnapped a burqa-clad American aid worker and her driver while they were traveling through southern Afghanistan early Saturday, a provincial governor said.

The two were stopped by gunmen outside the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, said Gov. Asadullah Khalid. He blamed the kidnapping on the "enemy of Islam and the enemy of Afghanistan."

Several Westerners — including two German construction workers and two Italian journalists — have been kidnapped in Afghanistan in the last year, but this was the first kidnapping of an American in recent memory.

Traveling around Kandahar city has turned increasingly dangerous in the last year, as the Taliban insurgency has spread throughout southern Afghanistan. Western civilians who operate there often travel with armed guards and with extreme caution. The area is rife with Taliban militants and also with criminals linked to the country's booming opium poppy trade.

A Taliban spokesman said he had no immediate information that the Islamic militia was behind the kidnappings.

No armed guards
Khalid said the 49-year-old American was wearing a burqa when she was taken. She worked for the aid agency Asian Rural Life Development Foundation, he said.

U.S. Embassy officials were looking into the report, an embassy official said on condition he not be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Khalid said the gunmen had not contacted the government or the woman's aid organization. He said police and intelligence officials were working to find her. He said the woman has been in Afghanistan for several years.

In a likely plea to the woman's captors, Khalid noted that the American respected Afghan traditions by wearing the burqa and speaking the local languages. She did not travel with armed guards, he said.

Projects run by the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation are located around the city of Kandahar and include food for work, irrigation rehabilitation, health care and restoration projects, according to the group's Web site.

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Video: American kidnapped in Afghanistan

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