ANKARA -- Two Turkish engineers kidnapped in western Afghanistan last week have been set free and are returning home, authorities have said.
"They are safe and now are flying to Turkey with a private aircraft," a Turkish Foreign Ministry official, who declined to be named, told Reuters. The pair would shortly arrive in Ankara.
Afghan police said their employers might have paid a ransom to secure their freedom. The company declined to comment.
Kidnapping has become a lucrative business in Afghanistan and scores of locals and foreigners have been abducted by criminals or Taliban-linked militants in recent years.
The Turkish nationals were working on a project in the western town of Islam Qala, bordering Iran. The pair were released last night, the police chief for the western zone said.
"Their company might have paid a ransom to the captors and bought their freedom," Ikramuddin Yawar told Reuters.
"Paying ransom to release people further encourages kidnapping in the country," he said, adding the abductors were part of a group of former factional forces who abandoned support for the government two years ago.
Gokhan Gul and Erhan Gunduz were both working for the Turkish construction company Gulsan Insaat, a Turkish Foreign Ministry source said last week.
Kidnapping has become a lucrative business in Afghanistan, where dozens of locals and foreigners have been abducted by criminals or Taliban-linked militants.
Islam Qala is on the main border crossing with Iran, a place where there is little Taliban activity. Criminals, however, have carried out kidnappings in the past and handed over their captives to the Taliban in return for money.
Neither the Taliban nor any other armed group claimed responsibility for the latest abduction.
Ousted from power in 2001, Taliban insurgents kidnapped 23 South Koreans last year, killing two and releasing the rest a more than a month later.