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Pro-Taliban Militants Release Kidnapped Pakistani Ambassador

Pakistani officials say militants have released the country's ambassador to Afghanistan after holding him for more than three months. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad the release came during ongoing talks between government officials and pro-Taliban militants.

Pakistani officials confirmed Tariq Azizuddin was freed unharmed on Saturday but declined to discuss the circumstances of his release. His younger sister told reporters that the family is concerned about the 56-year-old diplomat's health after more than three months in captivity, but they will be happy when he finally returns home.

"We are really grateful to all of the government officials who have helped to bring this thing to an end," she said.

Tariq Azizuddin, his driver and a bodyguard were kidnapped February 11 in the Khyber tribal region near the Afghan border. Pakistani security officials have said the men were initially kidnapped by a local tribal group but were then later turned over to Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan. Four weeks ago, Azizuddin appeared in a militant video pleading with Pakistani officials to meet his captors demands.

Pakistan's government has been negotiating with Mehsud and other militants on a peace agreement aimed at halting militant attacks inside Pakistan. In the past week, the Pakistani government has released imprisoned Pakistani militants in exchange for kidnapped soldiers.

U.S. and NATO officials have expressed concern a peace agreement will give the militants room to broaden attacks on NATO and Afghan forces across the border in Afghanistan. This week NATO officials reported a sharp rise in militant attacks in April. They said the alliance will soon discuss the issue of militant safe havens in Pakistan with the Pakistani government.