KABUL (Reuters) - A Canadian man is missing in Afghanistan, Canadian officials said on Sunday, with the Taliban claiming they had captured him in a volatile central province because he was a spy.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Ottawa said the man had travelled to Afghanistan as a tourist.
“Canadian officials are working with Afghan authorities to assist the family in securing the safe release of their loved one,” the spokeswoman said in a statement emailed to Reuters in Kabul.
Kidnapping has become a lucrative business in Afghanistan in recent years, as part of the Taliban-led insurgency but also by criminal groups with largely financial motives.
The Taliban issued a statement in Afghanistan earlier on Sunday in which it said the man had been captured in Ghazni city, southwest of the capital Kabul.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in the statement the man was still being held and that “documents in his possession reveal his clandestine intelligence activities.” The statement said the Taliban would soon release a video of him.
It is not unusual for the Taliban to exaggerate claims in incidents involving foreigners in Afghanistan.
In the past, criminal gangs and the Taliban have freed some hostages after ransoms were paid or as part of prisoner swaps, although that is not always the case.
Two French television journalists were kidnapped by the Taliban northeast of Kabul more than a year ago and are still being held. A Dutch aid worker and his Afghan driver, abducted in Afghanistan’s north last October, were freed in December.
Violence across Afghanistan in 2010 hit its worst levels since the Taliban were ousted in late 2001, despite the presence of about 150,000 foreign troops, including a contingent of Canadian soldiers.
There has been no sign of any let-up in 2011, despite U.S. and NATO commanders saying their troops have been able to stop the Taliban’s momentum in large areas of Afghanistan.
U.S. forces are due to begin a promised gradual drawdown from July, with Washington and NATO leaders agreeing to hand security responsibility to Afghan forces by 2014.
Reporting by Paul Tait; Editing by Eric Beech