updated 9/1/2005 3:56:00 AM ET 2005-09-01T07:56:00

Militants kidnapped a British engineer and his interpreter after an attack in western Afghanistan that left at least three policemen dead, officials said Thursday.

The Briton, who has not been identified, works for a foreign company building a highway from the southern city of Kandahar to the western city of Herat, said local police chief Allah Uddin Noorzi.

He was kidnapped Wednesday after the convoy he was traveling in was attacked, Noorzi said. A Filipino employee of the company escaped and was later found hiding under a bridge, he said.

Noorzi said four policemen providing security for the convoy were killed, although Interior Ministry spokesman Latfullah Mashal later said that only three officers had died.

Details sketchy
The situation remained unclear in many ways. The police chief blamed the Taliban for the kidnapping, but Mashal said it was the work of a criminal gang.

Mashal said no contact had been made with the kidnappers and that a delegation from Kabul was heading to the area.

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Kabul, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in accordance with embassy policy, said there had been “an incident involving a British citizen” in Afghanistan, but declined to give more details.

“We are urgently seeking more information from the government of Afghanistan,” he said.

The kidnapping comes just weeks after a Lebanese engineer building another road in southern Afghanistan was kidnapped. He was released days later unhurt.

Militants have stepped up attacks in the lead-up to landmark legislative elections on Sept. 18. More than 1,100 people have been killed in the past six months.

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