KABUL, Afghanistan — Three foreign catering workers were found shot dead outside the Afghan capital on Thursday after being kidnapped during their morning commute, the Afghan police said.

It was the latest in a yearslong series of such attacks, this time against employees of Sodexo, a global food services company that works for several international organizations in Kabul. The men killed came from India, Malaysia and Macedonia.

According to Hashmat Stanikzai, a spokesman for the Kabul Police Department, gunmen stopped the car in which the three men were being driven to work and forced them to switch to another.

But Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, said it appeared that the men had gotten into the second car voluntarily, and were accompanied by their Afghan driver. The driver returned an hour later and said the three men had been kidnapped.

Then, around midday, police officers investigating a report of a shooting in the Musahi district of Kabul Province found the three men’s bodies in the back seat of an abandoned car believed to be the one in which they were kidnapped, Mr. Rahimi said.

“We are deeply saddened and shocked to learn of the tragic loss of three of our team members in Kabul, Afghanistan, today,” the chief executive of Sodexo, Denis Machuel, said in an email. “On behalf of the Sodexo community, I want to say that our hearts are with their families, friends, and colleagues.”

It was unclear where in the city the victims had been working. Their driver has been arrested and was being questioned by security forces.

The Malaysian Embassy in New Delhi, India, confirmed the death of a Malaysian citizen in a news release, but did not identify him. The release said the kidnapping had taken place earlier in the week, but the police insisted it happened on Thursday.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the killings. Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman for the Taliban, denied in a WhatsApp message any involvement by the insurgents.

Past kidnappings in Kabul have been carried out by criminal gangs, as well as by the Taliban and their extremist branch, the Haqqani Network.

The list of attacks on expatriate workers in the city is a long one.

In 2014, 21 foreigners, including diplomats and aid workers, were killed in a Taliban attack on a popular restaurant. In January this year, insurgents stormed the city’s Intercontinental Hotel, leaving nine international airline employees among the 22 killed.

Two professors from the American University of Afghanistan were abducted by the Taliban at gunpoint in Kabul in August 2017. The Taliban then broadcast video of the professors asking for the release of insurgent prisoners in exchange for their freedom. They are believed to be alive, but no word has been heard from them in recent months.

In addition, on Tuesday, 20 people were killed and 26 wounded in an attack on the refugee department in the eastern city of Jalalabad. Many of the victims were workers for leading international and relief agencies, including the International Organization for Migration, the Norwegian Rescue Council and three others, all of them Afghans.

Fatima Faizi contributed reporting.

Orignially published in NYT.

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