Missing Pakistani ambassador is in Taliban captivity: Official

Other News Materials 19 April 2008 17:33 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan, Tariq Azizuddin, who went missing around nine weeks ago in the country's restive tribal region, is being held by Taliban and authorities were in contact with the militants to seek his release, an official said on Saturday.

"We are in touch with the mediators who are trying to secure the release of the ambassador," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa

"It is the top priority of the government that he should return to his family as soon as possible," he added.

Azizuddin, his driver and bodyguard went missing in the tribal district of Khyber Agency when they were traveling by road from the Pakistani city of Peshawar to the Afghan capital of Kabul on February 11.

Dubai-based al-Arabia television aired a video on Saturday which showed Azizuddin in Taliban captivity.

"We were kidnapped by mujahideen from Taliban," he said in the video, while urging the Pakistani government to meet the demands of the kidnappers.

It was not immediately clear what demands the Taliban were making, but some media reports have indicated that they want the release of one of their leaders who is being held by Pakistani authorities.

The spokesman also refused to give the details of the talks with militants.

"I am sorry that the life of our colleague is more important to us and there is certain information we are not in position to make public," Sadiq said.

Pakistan's tribal areas are safe havens for Taliban fighters and al-Qaeda terrorists who fled to the area after US invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

They were initially launching cross border attacks on NATO-led international forces into Afghanistan, but turned inside when Pakistan deployed more than 90,000 troops in the region to contain their activities.

More than 1,000 security personnel and hundreds of civilians have been killed over the last 13 months in attacks by militants around Pakistan.