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Five gunmen wearing Afghan military uniforms have abducted an American and an Australian in the Afghan capital, Kabul, a security official has said.

The two men were taken from their SUV while driving on Sunday night on a main road near the American University of Afghanistan, Sediq Sediqqi, the spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, said on Monday. They are believed to be university employees and were travelling between the university and their residence. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the abduction.

Sediqqi also said initial reports show that up to five armed men were involved in the kidnapping. He added an investigation was under way.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued a statement confirming the apparent kidnapping of an Australian in Kabul.

“Due to privacy and security considerations we will not be commenting further.We continue to advise Australians not to travel to Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation, including the serious threat of kidnapping,” it said.

Senior staff at the university could not be reached for comment.

Kidnappings are not uncommon in Afghanistan. Three other foreigners who were kidnapped in Kabul over the past year have all been released, including an Indian woman, Judith D’Souza, who was freed last month after being held for more than a month.

An Australian woman, Kerry Jane Wilson, was abducted in the eastern city of Jalalabad in April. Her whereabouts are unknown.

Sediqqi said kidnappers in all the Kabul cases had been wearing military uniforms, establishing a pattern and hinting at some form of organised gang activity.

Most of the thousands of foreigners living and working in Kabul are largely confined to their embassies or, in the case of those working for the UN or other non-governmental organisations, to their residential compounds, with limited movement permitted.

The abductions heighten the risk for the few foreigners, including journalists, who move with relative freedom across the Afghan capital to do their work.

Residents of Kabul complain that crime has risen in recent months, especially robbery and car theft. The apparent rise coincides with an economic crisis, as the government has not been able to create jobs or stimulate growth.

Ashraf Ghani, the president, took office in 2014 promising jobs and peace but has provided neither as the war with the Taliban grinds on for its 15th year. The police, however, deny a spike in crime.

On Sunday, a court in the western city of Herat sentenced 14 people to death for kidnapping and murder. Another three, including a woman, were handed prison sentences of between six and 20 years.