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Taliban: Swap U.K. Aid Worker for U.S. Prisoner

British officials are in contact with the family of a British aid worker abducted in Afghanistan and are urgently trying to resolve the matter, they said Monday, as NATO forces stepped up pressure on insurgents in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar.

Tim Waite, a spokesman for the British Embassy in Kabul, said Monday that officials were working closely with all relevant local authorities and said the worker's family had been contacted.

The Taliban reportedly claimed responsibility for the kidnapping Monday and demanded a Muslim woman being held in the U.S. be released in exchange for the aid worker.

The British aid worker and three Afghan colleagues were ambushed as they traveled in two vehicles in northeastern Kunar province. Police fought a gun battle with the kidnappers near the attack site before the assailants fled, Kunar police chief Khalilullah Zaiyi said.

Steven O'Connor, communications director for Development Alternatives Inc., a global consulting company based in the Washington, D.C., area, said late Sunday its employees, including a British national, were involved.

The company works on projects for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Afghanistan.

Britain's Foreign Office in London said it could "confirm that a British national has been abducted in Afghanistan."

According to a report in The Telegraph, a Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, and said he was seeking a prisoner exchange for Aaifa Siddiqui, a Muslim woman jailed in the U.S. on charges of attempting to shoot her American interrogators.

An Afghan news agency believed to have close links to the Taliban quoted a local Taliban commander named Mohammad Osman as saying: "We are lucky that we abducted this British woman soon after the ruthless ruling by an American court on Aafia Siddiqui. We will demand the release of Aafia Siddiqui in exchange for her," according to The Telegraph.

Siddiqui, a U.S. educated neuroscientist, was sentenced by a jury earlier this month in New York to 86 years in prison for grabbing the weapon of an American interrogator in Afghanistan and attempting to shoot him and his colleagues.

She was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008, allegedly carrying documents discussing bomb-making and U.S. landmarks. She was distantly related through her second marriage to Khaled Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

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