Gunmen abducted the Afghan deputy public works minister in Kabul on Tuesday, officials said, a grim reminder of the insecurity plaguing Afghanistan as most foreign troops prepare to withdraw from the country at the end of the year.

Ahmad Shah Wahid was on his way to work when five gunmen ran his car off the road in northern Kabul, dragged him into their 4-wheel-drive vehicle and sped away, said Gul Agha Hashim, the city's police chief of investigations.

The armed men shot and wounded Wahid's driver when he tried to drive away to safety, said public works ministry spokesman Soheil Kakar.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the abduction. Kakar said there has so far been no ransom demand.

Wahid, who is in his mid-50s, studied engineering and road construction in Italy and has been deputy minister for four years. Before that, he worked in the ministry overseeing road reconstruction, Kakar said.

"He is a very professional man and had no disputes with anyone," Kakar added.

Kidnappings for ransom by criminal gangs and abductions by Taliban insurgents are relatively common in Afghanistan, but Wahid is the highest-ranking government official abducted in years.

A Taliban spokesman said by telephone that he was not aware of Tuesday's abduction but would check to see if the insurgents were involved.