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Iranian Diplomat Kidnapped in Northwestern Pakistan


Unidentified gunmen in Pakistan have abducted an Iranian diplomat after killing his security guard in Peshawar. Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad the kidnapping occurred a day after an American aid worker and his local driver were shot dead in the troubled northwestern city.

A senior police officer, Jawad Qamar, told VOA by telephone from Peshawar that the Iranian diplomat, Hashmatullah Attarzadeh, was ambushed as he drove to the consulate in the city.

"He left his home for the consulate. He had a police guard with him. A white car in which there were allegedly three to four armed criminals, they intercepted his car, they fired upon the police guard, killed him and kidnapped the Iranian consul," said Qamar.

The ambush took place a day after unknown gunmen killed an American aid worker and his local driver in Peshawar. The victims were employees of a U.S-based aid organization working on a development project in the region.

Thursday's kidnapping happened in the same area where Afghanistan's ambassador-designate was abducted in September. He is still missing.

Peshawar is the last city on the road to the Khyber Pass, the main land route to Afghanistan. It is also the capital city of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province, where militants linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban have carried out frequent high-profile kidnappings, suicide bombings and deadly attacks on security forces in recent months. These insurgents are also believed to be using the Pakistani border region for cross-border raids on NATO and Afghan forces.

Early this week, pro-Taliban militants seized 13 trucks carrying supplies to foreign forces in Afghanistan as they drove through the Khyber Pass.

Taliban militants are believed to be behind the kidnappings of two Chinese engineers and a Polish surveyor. The men were abducted from two different districts in the northwest of the country.

Speaking at a news conference in Islamabad, foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq, condemned the kidnappings, saying Pakistan has assured their respective countries it is making all possible efforts to secure their safe release. But he dismissed the incidents will undermine Pakistan's relations with its friendly countries.

"The government has reaffirmed its commitment that all the kidnapped diplomats or foreigners will be recovered as soon as possible. These are very sad incidents, but we hope that they will not affect the relationships as such because we [Pakistan] are passing through a difficult phase, difficult period," said Sadiq.

Pakistani security forces are said to have killed up to 2,000 militants since early August during anti-insurgent military operations in the Swat district and the Bajaur tribal region on the Afghan border.

U.S.-led coalition forces based in Afghanistan also have stepped up missile strikes in Pakistan's mountainous Waziristan border region targeting al-Qaida bases and training facilities. These attacks have killed scores of people, mostly militants, but Pakistani leaders condemn the U.S. move as a violation of their country's sovereignty, saying the strikes are fueling anti-America sentiment and hurting the government's anti-terror efforts.

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