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Afghan doctors protest new security threat: gangs

Residents of the western city of Herat say 'Enough' to the rise of criminal activity.

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When a criminal gang abducted a prominent doctor's 12-year-old son last week off the streets of Herat, residents of the western Afghan city decided they had had enough.

Doctors, nurses, and other health providers walked out on their jobs to protest what they say are the government's half-hearted attempts to address a growing security problem. Shopkeepers, judges, and the city's main trade union soon joined them, prompting the closure of close to 250 factories.

The strike, which ended earlier this week, highlights widespread dissatisfaction with government efforts to provide security and illustrates the extent to which criminal gangs – not the Taliban – are seen as the biggest security threat in Afghanistan's major cities.

"We are scared to go outside because we never know when it will be for the last time," says Herat resident Ahmad Qurishi.

Kidnapping for ransom on the rise

Government officials report that close to 100 kidnapping incidents were registered in 2007 in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul – almost all of them at the hands of criminal gangs. The secretive, well-organized gangs often kidnap well-to-do businessmen, doctors, and other prominent figures and demand millions in ransom. The gangs also organize sophisticated robberies, often absconding with hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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