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KABUL: Gunmen wearing police uniform kidnapped an American and an Australian in the heart of Kabul, officials said on Monday, the latest in a series of abductions of foreigners in the conflict-torn country.

The two professors at the American University of Afghanistan were seized from their vehicle on Sunday evening, as the kidnappers smashed the passenger window and hauled them away at gunpoint.

The abductions come three days after a group of foreign tourists was ambushed by the Taliban in Herat province.

“Two foreign professors, one American and the other Australian, were abducted at gunpoint from Dar-ul-Aman Road in the centre of Kabul city,” interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said.

“Indications are that they were kidnapped by a criminal group.” The driver and a guard inside the vehicle, both unharmed, had been held for questioning, a security official said.

Four gunmen wearing police uniform were involved in the abduction, according to a western official in Kabul.

The Afghan capital is infested with organised criminal gangs who stage kidnappings for ransom, often targeting foreigners and wealthy Afghans, and sometimes hand them over to insurgent groups.

The US State Department said it was aware of reports of the kidnapping of an American but declined to comment.

The Australian government confirmed the “apparent kidnapping” of one its citizens, citing its embassy in Kabul, but also refused to elaborate due to security considerations.

“We continue to advise Australians not to travel to Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation, including the serious threat of kidnapping,” the government said in a statement.

This appeared to be the first reported abduction related to a private university in Afghanistan.

The elite American University of Afghanistan, which opened in 2006 and enrols more than 1,700 students, was not immediately reachable for comment. It has attracted a number of visiting faculty members from western countries.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2016