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KHATLON, Tajikistan -- Tajik authorities say they recently freed four hostages from Afghan captivity.

Ibronim Azizov, the chief of the Shuroabad district in southern Khatlon Province, told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that the fourth Tajik hostage was freed in Afghanistan this week.

Azizov said Afghans kidnapped the Tajik teenager in December in the village of Hojakhatlon.

The number of kidnappings and theft of livestock along the Tajik-Afghan border has increased in recent years.

Local authorities say Afghan kidnappers who have been caught claim they commit the crimes on Tajik territory to pressure locals into paying debts for drugs that have been smuggled to them from Afghanistan.
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