German hostage freed in Afghanistan: officials

A German working for an international aid agency has been freed after he was taken hostage in northeastern Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday.

The man was kidnapped by suspected Taliban militants in the mountainous district of Argos in Badakhshan province on Saturday while out jogging with his dog, local police officers told AFP.

His employer, the German government-owned aid body GIZ, released a statement confirming that he had been found unharmed within 24 hours of going missing.

"Our intensive efforts to resolve this situation without delay were rewarded with the help of the local population," it said.

Badakhshan police chief Imamuddin Motmaen told AFP that a gang of 15 men were involved in the kidnap.

"The police conducted a raid on the kidnappers' hideout and, after some hours of gunfire, the kidnappers abandoned the hostages and ran away," he said. "Five kidnappers were later arrested in separate operations."

The kidnapping of Westerners has been a regular occurrence in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, with victims often taken hostage by criminals and sold on to militants.

Last June NATO special forces rescued one British and one Nigerian woman held hostage in a cave in Badakhshan.

The women, who worked for Swiss-based charity Medair, and two Afghan colleagues had been held for about a week before they were freed unharmed.

Badakhshan, which borders China, Pakistan and Tajiakistan, is a generally peaceful province but there have been pockets of Taliban-led violence against the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.

In August 2010 the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing eight medical aid workers in the province, claiming they were "Christian missionaries".