msnbc.com news services
updated 11/22/2004 2:52:28 AM ET 2004-11-22T07:52:28

American and Afghan forces searching for three kidnapped U.N. workers smashed their way into houses in downtown Kabul early Monday, officials and witnesses said.

About 10 people were detained in the pre-dawn operation, but there was no indication that the three foreigners had been found.

A spokesman for the U.S. military, Lt. Col. Pamela Keeton, said the joint operation was “related to the hostage situation,” but said she had no further details.

Over the weekend, joint raids in eastern Afghanistan left at least four militants dead, according to the U.S. military.

The raids took place on Saturday and Sunday in the eastern province of Nangarhar in the vicinity of the provincial capital Jalalabad, a statement from the U.S. military said.

“Coalition forces conducted operations on several compounds in the Jalalabad area that had clear connections to Al Qaeda,” it said.

“Four enemy fighters were killed and several others were detained in the operations that were based partially on information provided by local residents,” it said. “Among those enemy killed or captured were several Arab fighters.”

The statement said U.S.-led forces also seized a “significant” quantity of weapons, explosives, cash and other materials. It did not identify the Arab fighters, and a spokesman for the U.S. military said he had no further details.

U.S.-led forces have been in Afghanistan since 2001 pursuing remnants of the former Taliban regime and their al-Qaida allies, including Osama bin Laden.

Hunt for hostages
Security forces began their latest assault in the west of Kabul at about 4 a.m., using rockets to blast a hole in a wall surrounding the two-story home of a doctor working for the United Nations, witnesses said.

The doctor, Munir Mosamem, and his 17-year-old son were detained, Mosamem’s wife Zakia told The Associated Press. The intruders searched the house and confiscated three mobile phones and part of a computer, she said.

U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva confirmed that a doctor with that name worked at a clinic for the world body in the city, but had no information about the raid.

Another eight men were detained in a derelict house next door where several impoverished families of recently returned refugees were living, witnesses said.

A woman who gave her name as Angoma, 28, said her husband was among the eight taken away with his hands bound and his head covered by a hood.

“They showed us pictures of the three hostages, two women and one man, and asked if we had seen them,” she said. “I told them I recognized them from the television, but we don’t know anything about them or where they are.”

An elderly woman called Mabuba sharing the doctor’s house also said she had been questioned about the three.

“I told them no, and that we are very sad about this case,” she said.

Armed men seized Philippine diplomat Angelito Nayan, British-Irish citizen Annetta Flanigan and Shqipe Hebibi of Kosovo in Kabul on Oct. 28, the first such abduction in the Afghan capital since the fall of the Taliban three years ago. It remains unclear where they are being held and by whom.

Afghan officials believe a criminal gang carried out the abductions and that negotiations have snagged over a ransom demand. But it remains unclear if the kidnappers are working for a Taliban splinter group which has claimed responsibility and demanded that Afghan and U.S. authorities free several prisoners.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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