KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Unidentified gunmen killed five mine-clearance workers in Afghanistan on Monday who were preparing for construction of an international gas pipeline, while one worker was kidnapped, officials said.
The $8 billion TAPI pipeline, intended to transport some 33 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year along an 1,800 km route from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India, is seen as vital for the future of Afghanistan’s economy.
Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the governor of Kandahar province, said the demining team was working in the southern province’s Maiwand district when attacked early on Monday.
“The victims had told the district governor and district police that they had no problem with Taliban so they would not need any protection,” he said.
The route of the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (TAPI) pipeline passes through large areas under Taliban control or influence.
But when the Afghan section of the project was launched this year, the Taliban said they would cooperate because of its importance for the country.
However, construction work will still have to pass through lawless areas of southern Afghanistan where armed groups with shifting loyalties operate and security is highly uncertain.
A Taliban spokesman said the incident was being investigated and said the victims were not wearing the usual uniform worn by TAPI workers.
Reporting by Sarwar Amani and Qadir Sediqi in KABUL; Editing by Robert Birsel