Reuters International

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia is working closely with the Afghan government to secure the safe return of an Australian aid worker believed to have been kidnapped, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Friday.

Katherine "Kerry" Jane Wilson, a Perth native who runs an aid agency in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, was abducted from her office early on Thursday by two armed men, officials said.

"Four men in government forces' uniform abducted the woman, who is an Australian national and about 70 years old, from her office," said Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province.

He said Wilson had arrived in Jalalabad on Wednesday and had been staying in a hotel in the city before going early to her office.

Bishop told reporters: "We have connections, networks in Afghanistan, and we will be seeking to confirm as many of the details as we can, as soon as possible. In the meantime, we're staying in close contact with her family," Bishop said.

Wilson's elderly father, Brian, appealed for his daughter's return in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"I presume she's a hostage and they'll do their best to keep her alive and not harm her simply because they want to have something or other in return."

Kidnapping has become a lucrative source of income for militant Islamist groups in recent years, and the topic of whether to pay for their release is hotly debated.

Last August, a German citizen working for the German development agency GIZ was kidnapped in central Kabul but was released after two months.

Canada and Britain will urge other nations not to pay ransoms to free kidnap victims, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday, the day after a Canadian hostage was found dead in the Philippines.

Bishop said that Australia does not, as a matter of policy, pay ransom to kidnappers.

(Reporting by Matt Siegel in SYDNEY and Rafi Sherzad in JALALABAD; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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