Taliban source says Swiss couple kidnapped for ransom

Taliban source says Swiss couple kidnapped for ransom

A Swiss couple that was kidnapped in Pakistan's south-western province of Balochistan has been moved to the Taliban heartland of South Waziristan near the Afghan border, a rebel source claimed Tuesday.

Olivier David Och, 31, and Daniela Widmer, 28, were abducted on Friday in Loralai district when they entered from the central province of Punjab planning to travel further south-west into Iran, DPA reported.

"Both have been shifted to South Waziristan," said a Taliban commander in the region who spoke on condition of anonymity. South Waziristan is a restive district adjacent to Baluchistan.

He did not say which rebel group had abducted the couple but he confirmed that they had been moved to an area controlled by a pro-government militant commander named Maulvi Nazir.

"A demand of ransom and exchange of some prisoners is coming very soon," he said.

Maulvi Nazir has an agreement with the government under which he focuses only on fighting foreign forces in Afghanistan and avoids attacks inside Pakistan, sources said.

Sohailur Rehman Baloch, top civil administrator in Loralai, refused to confirm the claims that the couple was in rebel custody.

"We are working on the case but there are no clues so far where these Swiss may be. No one has claimed responsibility and no one has demanded any ransom," Baloch said.

"We believe that they might still be in the surrounding areas of Loralai and the kidnappers must be trying to move them into tribal regions. We are keeping an eye on the all exit routes," he added.

Baloch said the couple entered Pakistan on July 28 from India and was on its way to Iran, Turkey and back to Europe.

"We found their credit cards and a diary where they noted their travel expenditures from a vehicle abandoned after the kidnapping."

Balochistan has been grappling with an insurgency led by nationalists demanding greater control over mineral resources, including natural gas, copper and gold.

Rebels have in the past targeted foreigners to gain international attention. The chief of the UN agency for refugees, John Solecki, was kidnapped in 2009, but released unharmed after two months.

The impoverished province is also believed to have hideouts of Taliban, particularly near the Afghan border. Some media reports have suggested that Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar could be hiding in the province.

But Taliban fighters have avoided any direct conflict with the Pakistani government in Balochistan. Most of the fighting with Islamist insurgents occurs in the north-western province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and adjacent tribal districts.

Al-Qaeda-linked militants released an Iranian diplomat abducted from Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, last year in exchange for several comrades held by Iranian authorities.

Polish engineer Peter Stanczak was kidnapped in Punjab province in September 2008 and beheaded months later when negotiations over ransom and release of prisoners failed.

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