KABUL/PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN (Reuters) – A U.S. citizen has been kidnapped in Afghanistan’s eastern Khost province, according to media reports on Thursday.
American current affairs magazine Newsweek reported that a 57-year old U.S. contractor was abducted last week in Khost, citing unnamed U.S. officials.
The U.S. State Department declined to comment.
Newsweek reported that U.S. officials believed a Taliban-linked group, the Haqqani network, had orchestrated the abduction.
Sources close to the Haqqani network denied kidnapping the American when contacted by Reuters.
A Taliban leader who declined to be named told Reuters they had kidnapped an American in Khost but did not provide further details.
“Well to us the important achievement is the American is in our possession. We will provide other information to media later,” he said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters they knew of media reports of the abduction but were not aware of it and were checking with their commanders.
A senior western diplomat in Kabul said they were worried that splinter groups within the Taliban could be behind the kidnapping, highlighting worries about the group lacking unity.
The diplomat did not confirm or deny the kidnapping.
The incident comes amidst ongoing talks between the United States and the Taliban aimed at striking a deal to end their 18-year war in Afghanistan.
U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly called off the negotiations after a U.S. soldier was killed in an attack by the militant group in September.
Talks have since resumed but have suffered setbacks due to multiple attacks, including a December suicide bombing of a U.S. base outside Kabul that killed two civilians.
Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul and Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar; additional reporting by Rupam Jain; writing by Charlotte Greenfield in Islamabad; Editing by Lisa Shumaker