Four suspects held from Kotadu alleged involved in kidnapping of two aid workers

MULTAN: Police in Kot Addu have arrested four people in connection with last week’s kidnapping of two foreign aid workers, local police officials told  on Monday.             
Gunmen stormed the workers’ residence on Janury 23 in the town located in Punjab and drove away with the two aid workers – an Italian national, and another police believe to be a German national.
The provincial police chief said that the aid workers, who were working on a project in southern Punjab, are being held for ransom.
“That is all we can confirm, that they were abducted for ransom. At the moment, we cannot provide any more details or say anything about who is behind it,” Javed Iqbal told reporters in Lahore.
Criminal gangs often target foreign aid workers in hope of securing large ransoms for their release. Officials say militant groups such as the Taliban are also involved in kidnappings.
Gunmen kidnapped a British doctor, working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in Quetta on January 5.
American aid worker Warren Weinstein was kidnapped from Lahore in August last year. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for Weinstein’s abduction in December.
In July, a Swiss couple was kidnapped from Balochistan by the Pakistani Taliban. Masked gunmen kidnapped a German aid worker and his Italian colleague overnight in Pakistan’s central shrine city of Multan, local police said on Friday.

The kidnappings bring to six the number of Westerners abducted since July in nuclear-armed Pakistan, where US forces last year killed Osama Bin Laden and which stands on the frontline of a Taliban insurgency.

“Three gunmen barged into a house and abducted an Italian and a German national at gunpoint on Thursday evening,” Multan city police officer Aamir Zulfiqar told reporters outside the house where they were kidnapped.

“The two men were working for a foreign Non-Government Organisation (NGO).”

“Three armed men entered the house and kidnapped two foreign nationals,” Zulfiqar said.

“So far we have not established a motive but it is too early to say. We are continuing investigations to try to see what happened.”

There was no claim of responsibility for the abductions in Multan, which is about 400 kilometres southwest of the capital Islamabad and which in the past has not been considered particularly dangerous for Westerners.

It is the largest city in central Punjab province, known for its Sufi shrines, mosques and historic tombs. Southern Punjab is considered a recruiting ground for Taliban and other extremist groups.

A local security official said that the kidnappers pistol-whipped a private security guard, then snatched the aid workers, but left behind a Western woman in the house that the group rented.

“The woman was unable to identify the kidnappers because they covered their faces with masks,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The Italian foreign ministry confirmed that one of its citizens had been kidnapped in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, but did not release any other details.

It said it was in “permanent contact” with the man’s family and had activated its crisis unit, but called for discretion and co-operation from the media “so as not to compromise efforts at freeing our compatriot.”

The foreigners reportedly work for an aid group that helps victims from Pakistan’s devastating 2010 floods that affected up to 21 million people.

The German foreign ministry said Berlin was “aware of the reports and is the process of verifying them in co-operation with the Pakistani authorities.”

Also during the day, a roadside bomb exploded next to a pro-government tribal militia patrol in the Jamrud area of the northwestern Khyber tribal region, killing two militiamen and wounding three, local government officials said.

An another incident, a roadside bomb exploded next to a Pakistani paramilitary convoy in the Bara area of Khyber, wounding seven soldiers, security officials said.

A suicide bomber late on Thursday injured three police officials after he detonated during a routine check at Watar Police check post in Nowshera district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“Three police officials were injured,” said an official. “Our investigation so far has revealed that it was a suicide attack,” he added.

According to a senior official, the bomber was identified as Amjad alias Jannat and was related to Qari Kamran, a top militant killed in the Khyber Agency last month.

Kidnappings are a plague in parts of Pakistan, where criminals snatch foreigners and locals for ransom, sometimes selling their hostages onto Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked groups.

Pakistani officials say militant groups such as the Taliban are also involved in kidnappings.

Such incidents have put off long-term investors. Foreign direct investment fell 37 per cent to $531.2 million in the second half of 2011 from $839.6 million in the final six months of 2010.

Earlier this month, gunmen kidnapped a British man working for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s insurgency-hit southwestern province of Balochistan.

Last August, an American development director, Warren Weinstein, 70, was snatched from his home in Lahore and in July a Swiss couple were kidnapped while driving through Balochistan.

The Taliban claim to be holding the Swiss and videos have been released of the couple in captivity.

Spell Bounder

I'm journalist in Pakistan,And working in this field about 20 years.