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Pakistan Presses for Release of Iraq Hostage

Malik Muhammad Javed
Pakistan is intensifying efforts to free one of its nationals, kidnapped Saturday in Iraq. Government officials have said that the kidnappers appear more interested in making money than political statements.

Pakistan says it dispatched a senior envoy to Iraq to secure the release of embassy assistant Malik Muhammad Javed, who disappeared Saturday in Baghdad after attending evening prayers at a local mosque.

A previously unknown group, Omer Bin Khatab, has claimed responsibility.

Pakistan government spokesman Jalil Abbas Jilani says the group does not appear to be connected to Iraqi insurgents.

"It is an unknown group," he said. "Nobody was aware of its existence, not even the Iraqi authorities. So, our best judgment is that it is most probably a case of abduction for ransom."

Mr. Jilani told reporters that Mr. Javed is safe and in regular contact with Pakistani officials in Iraq.

Mr. Jilani would not comment on how much his kidnappers are seeking, but insisted the case is a top priority for his government.

"We will leave no stone unturned," he said. "We will make every possible effort to secure the release of Malik Mohammed Javed."

Kidnapping remains a major security challenge in Iraq. Since the invasion, at least 150 foreigners and about 5,000 Iraqis have been kidnapped.

Many are held by militants who want to make a political point, but most are taken by criminal gangs looking for a ransom.

Mr. Javed is the third Pakistani to be taken captive. Last year, two Pakistani truck drivers were kidnapped and accused of working for the U.S. military. They were later murdered.

Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in the "war on terror", but opposed the war in Iraq, and refused to send troops to the region.

Nevertheless, President Musharraf's ties to Washington are routinely criticized by his domestic opposition, especially conservative Islamic groups.