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Asia-pacific

TV broadcasts video of kidnapped UN official

Video by Nicholas RUSHWORTH , Julien FANCIULLI

Latest update : 2009-02-14

Pakistani TV stations broadcast a video of a blindfolded man who may have been John Solecki, an American national and UN official who was kidnapped Feb. 2. The Baluch United Liberation Front has claimed responsibility for the abduction.

AFP - A kidnapped American UN official abducted in Pakistan nearly two weeks ago was apparently shown in a video aired by Pakistani television on Friday, appealing for his release and saying he was unwell.
   
The video, broadcast by private channel Dunya and rival station Geo, shows a close-up of the face of a blindfolded man, apparently John Solecki, although the person was not identified.
   
Solecki, who heads the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Quetta -- the capital of Pakistan's restive southwestern Baluchistan province -- was abducted at gunpoint on February 2 while travelling to work. His driver was killed.
   
"This is a message to the United Nations. I am not feeling well, I am sick and in trouble. Please help solve the problems soon so I can gain my release," said the person shown in the video.
   
It was not clear if he was speaking under duress, nor was it immediately clear when the video was taken.
   
Dunya said the video was shot on a mobile phone and delivered on a memory card to the television station.
   
The picture on the video was unclear and poor quality, said an AFP correspondent who watched the broadcast. The man was heavily blindfolded but what could be seen of his face looked pale, against a blurred background.
   
Dunya said the Baluch United Liberation Front, which claimed Solecki's abduction in a telephone call to local media, demanded the release of 141 women Baluch detainees apparently in Pakistani custody within 72 hours.
   
The shadowy group, which is not known for kidnapping or executing foreigners, also demanded to know the whereabouts of 6,000 young men it said went missing during military operations to put down Baluchistan's insurgency.
   
Shah Nawaz, the local police official in charge of the area in Quetta where Solecki was kidnapped, had no immediate comment.
   
"We are also watching this video tape like others," he told AFP.
   
The United Nations has expressed deep concern over the fate of Solecki, saying he has a medical condition that requires regular medication.
   
His abduction is the most high-profile Western kidnapping in Pakistan since US journalist Daniel Pearl was snatched in 2002 and beheaded by Al-Qaeda militants.
   
A spokesman for the purported kidnappers said in a recent telephone call to the local Online news agency that they snatched Solecki to draw attention to "excesses being inflicted on (the) Baluch Nation."
   
Hundreds of people have died in insurgent unrest in Baluchistan since 2004, when rebels rose up demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits in the province's rich natural resources.
   
Pakistan has condemned the kidnapping as a "dastardly terrorist act" and offered a reward of one million rupees (12,610 dollars) for information leading to Solecki's rescue.
   
Kidnappings of foreigners in Baluchistan are rare, although they have multiplied in northwest Pakistan, which also borders Afghanistan.
   
Pakistan also vowed to catch the killers of Polish geologist Piotr Stanczak, who was seized in the volatile northwest in September, calling his murder a "heinous crime and brutal act of terrorism."
   
"The government of Pakistan is fully determined to bring the perpetrators of this despicable crime to justice," a foreign ministry statement said.
  

Date created : 2009-02-14

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