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Gunmen Kidnap Frenchman, Kill Afghan In Kabul

KABUL (Reuters) -- Gunmen have kidnapped a French aid worker in the Afghan capital and shot dead an Afghan driver for the national intelligence agency who tried to stop the abduction, a senior police officer has said.

The kidnapping will increase the sense of threat felt by hundreds of Westerners working in Kabul, coming less than 10 days since a Briton and South African were shot dead and two weeks after a British woman aid worker was also killed in the city.

The Frenchman was walking in the street in the west of the city when gunmen in a red Toyota saloon seized him, said the police official who declined to be named.

A passing driver working for the National Directorate of Security intelligence agency stopped and tried to intervene, but was shot dead by the abductors, the officer said.

Afghanistan has seen record levels of violence this year as the hard-line Islamist Taliban step up their campaign to overthrow the Western-backed Afghan government.

Taliban militants have kidnapped dozens of foreigners and hundreds of Afghans since they relaunched their insurgency three years ago, but armed criminal bands have also abducted businessmen and wealthier Afghans for ransom.

Most have been released unharmed, but a number have been killed.

Afghan Adviser Kidnapped

Meanwhile, gunmen in Pakistan have kidnapped an Afghan government adviser visiting relatives in a northwestern border region, the third prominent Afghan kidnapped in Pakistan in recent weeks.

Akhtar Kohistani, an adviser at the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, was abducted in Seerdoor Kadak, a village in Pakistan's northwestern Chitral district, while visiting his in-laws.

"Unidentified armed men broke into his in-laws' house last night and took him away," said Chitral Police Chief Sher Akbar Khan.

Chitral is opposite the insurgency-plagued Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan.

Khan said the motive for the abduction was not known and his men were investigating.

Late last week, gunmen kidnapped Zia-ul-Haq, a brother of Afghan Finance Minister Anwar Ul-Haq Ahady, in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, security officials said.

Pakistani police are also searching for Afghanistan's top diplomat in Pakistan, ambassador-designate Abdul Khaliq Farahi, who was kidnapped on September 22 in Peshawar.

Islamist militants are fighting the governments of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, which are both important U.S. allies.

Kidnapping by criminal gangs is also a problem in both countries.