Masked gunmen have abducted thirty Shiite Muslim men in central Afghanistan.

The men raided a bus and took the men, believed to be Hazaras – a minority ethnic group – as they travelled on a bus on its way through the province of Zabul, near to the capital of Kabul. Women and children were also taken but then later released, officials say.

"Our driver saw a group of masked men in Afghan army uniform signalling him and he thought they were soldiers so he stopped," Nasir Ahmad, from the Ghazni Paima bus company, told AFP.

"The gunmen took 30 Hazaras away with them."

Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the police were "doing everything to ensure their safe release".

No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and no ransom has been demanded.

Hazaras have been targeted by the Taliban and other Sunni extremists in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan. There are also fears about the growing influence of Islamic State in Afghanistan against Shiite Muslims.