Kidnapped Pakistani diplomatic staff recovered in Afghanistan

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Afghan security forces on Wednesday recovered two Pakistani diplomatic officials who were kidnapped in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangahar, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said.

The two Pakistani officials, based in a consulate office in the eastern city of Jalalabad, were abducted on June 16 as they traveled by road back to their homeland.

Details of their recovery were not immediately available, nor was information of who had taken the diplomatic officials. Afghan government forces are fighting both the main Taliban insurgents and fighters loyal to Islamic State for control of territory in Nangarhar.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani personally called the Pakistani charge d’affaires in Kabul to give the news of the operation.

The diplomatic officials were transferred to the Pakistani embassy on Wednesday and were expected to be flown back to Pakistan as soon as possible, the ministry statement said. Afghan officials were not immediately available to comment.

The consulate officials’ recovery marked a welcome piece of warm sentiment between the Afghan and Pakistan governments, each of which faces attacks from separate Islamist groups seeking to establish a hard-line version of Islamic sharia law.

Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye to Afghan Taliban commanders based within its borders and of supporting the militant group, something Islamabad denies.

Islamabad has claimed that Kabul is not doing enough to tackle Pakistani Taliban militants who have been driven out of Pakistan, but who still carry out attacks across the border.

Pakistan’s statement said Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua in a phone call to the Afghan side conveyed Pakistan’s gratitude to the Afghan government.

Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Richard Balmforth