Tue, Feb 24, 2009 - Page 5 News List

UN official still alive, Baluchistan group says


Supporters of political party Jamat-e-Islami protest in Karachi, Pakistan, on Saturday against US drone attacks near the Afghan border. The Taliban said on Sunday that it had released a Pakistani official in the troubled Swat Valley.


John Solecki, an American kidnapped in Pakistan while working for a UN agency, is alive, a spokesman for the separatist group holding him said yesterday after media reports that he had been killed.

Pakistani TV channels had run a headline saying the Press Club in the southwestern city of Quetta had received an anonymous telephone call saying Solecki had been killed and his body would be abandoned in a couple of hours.

A spokesman for the previously unheard of Baluchistan Liberation United Front (BLUF) later telephoned a Pakistani news agency office in Quetta to deny any call had been made from the group, and to confirm that Solecki was alive.

“He is alive,” spokesman Shahak Baluch said in a call to Online news agency. “We have not made any call.”

Solecki, head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Baluchistan Province, was abducted on Feb. 2 by gunmen who ambushed his car and killed his driver in Quetta.

Meanwhile, Taliban militants on Sunday detained and released a Pakistani official and six bodyguards in Swat Valley to secure the release of three of their colleagues, a Taliban spokesman said.

“We have released the official and his six guards in exchange [for the] release of our two colleagues,” Muslim Khan said. “The government has released two [of] our men and soon they will release the third. The government violated the agreement by arresting our men in Peshawar and killing in Dir [district] that is why we had do this.”

Officials said they could not confirm the claim by Khan.

“I have received some information about the release of government official and his guards, but we have not heard form him yet,” Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said.

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