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American UN Official Kidnapped in Southwest Pakistan


Gunmen in southwest Pakistan have kidnapped an American working for the U.N. refugee agency and killed his Pakistani driver.

The kidnapping occurred in Quetta, the regional capital of Pakistan's Balochistan province. American John Solecki and his Pakistani driver, Syed Hashim Raza, were driving to the local office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, where Solecki works as the top official.

Police officer Khalid Masood told reporters the two men were ambushed after leaving Solecki's home.

He says the gunmen intercepted the car and shot the driver. He says the driver later died at the hospital.

Quetta police say they sealed roads out of the city and searched cars. Officials have not said if there are any groups suspected to be behind the attack. The foreign ministry called the ambush a "dastardly terrorist act."

Pakistan's impoverished Balochistan province has experienced decades of fighting from ethnic-separatist groups who oppose the central government.

In recent years, Taliban fighters have also operated in the region. But most of the violence is between the Pakistani military and separatist fighters - abductions of foreigners are rare.

In northwest Pakistan, suspected Taliban militants have kidnapped several foreigners in the past year. Last September's bombing of the Islamabad Marriott Hotel caused the United Nations and other foreign organizations to tighten their security policies.

The United Nations released a statement strongly denouncing the abduction and killing. It did not say if operations in Pakistan would be affected.

Spokeswoman Ishrat Risvi says many workers are shocked and dismayed by the incident, but they also want to continue their work.

"The United Nations stands committed to continuing its development and humanitarian work and expecting improved security arrangements," she said.

Balochistan province borders Iran and Afghanistan and hosts more than one-fifth of all refugees in Pakistan. U.N. officials say the refugee agency office in Quetta supports health care, water, education and sanitation programs for some of the province's nearly 400,000 registered Afghan refugees.

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