Taliban insurgents abducted 27 people in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, setting up a road block and pulling them from their vehicles at gunpoint in the latest mass kidnapping in the war-torn country.
The incident took place in the Sayed Karam district of southeastern Paktia province, said provincial council member Mohammad Rahman Qadery. The hostages were taken to an unknown location, he said.
"We are not sure why they have abducted civilians, but we have deployed police reinforcement to free the passengers," provincial police chief Zalmai Uryakhail told AFP.
Local elders were also involved in negotiations to free the abductees, he said.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Twitter the group was holding the 27 people on suspicion of being government workers.
Mujahid said they had identified eight government employees while the remaining 19 were being "investigated".
There has been an increase in kidnappings by militant groups in Afghanistan this year.
Earlier this month, Kabul was able to secure the release of 19 out of 31 mostly Shiite Afghans kidnapped by gunmen in the southern part of the country in early February in what was reported to be a prisoner swap.
The Taliban have also stepped up attacks on government and foreign targets since they announced their annual spring offensive late last month, vowing to "safeguard and protect the lives of civilians".
A Taliban raid on a guesthouse popular with international aid agency workers in a highly secured part of the Afghan capital Wednesday killed 14 people, including four Indians, two Pakistanis, an American, an Italian and a British-Afghan dual national.
The attack sparked strong condemnation from Amnesty International, which said it was a "stark reminder of the Taliban's contempt for human life" and reflected "a worrying new surge in the armed group's targeting of civilians around the country".
The Afghan insurgent group justified targeting foreigners, saying people from "invading countries" do not count as civilians.