Pakistani workers of U.S. aid agency feared kidnapped

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 19, 2011 1:18 AM
Pakistani workers of U.S. aid agency feared kidnapped

By Gul Yusufzai

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Eight Pakistani employees of a U.S.-based aid organization are missing and feared kidnapped in Pakistan's volatile southwest bordering Afghanistan, a senior Pakistani government official said on Tuesday.

The American Refugee Committee (ARC) employees were returning from an Afghan refugee camp in Pishin in Baluchistan province on Monday evening when they went missing.

"They distributed some relief goods among the refugees and were probably kidnapped on their way back to Quetta," Pishin's deputy commissioner Mansoor Kakar told Reuters, referring to the provincial capital. Pishin is about 50 km (31 miles) from Quetta. "Efforts are underway to recover them."

Militants linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban, as well as ethnic Baluch militants fighting for more autonomy, have been involved in violence in the region, which also borders Iran.

Kakar said it was not clear who was behind the possible kidnapping. "We don't have any clue so far."

Kidnapping is an industry in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions, with money often the main motivation rather than political demands. Ransoms are a large source of revenue for the Taliban, al Qaeda and the Baluch insurgency.

ARC has worked in refugee camps near Quetta since 2002, focusing on providing health care and training members of the community in basic health services, according to the ARC website. It began operating in northern parts of Pakistan after 2005 devastating earthquake.

Earlier this month, a Swiss couple was kidnapped by gunmen in district of Loralai in Baluchistan. They have not yet been recovered.

An American official of the U.N. refugee agency was kidnapped in Quetta in 2009 but was released after two months.

(Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Daniel Magnowski)