UN hostage said to have been killed is alive (Lead)

February 23rd, 2009 - 5:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Feb 23 (IANS) An American UN official abducted by Baloch militants and said to have been killed is still alive, the outfit holding him said Monday.

John Solecki, who led the UN refugee agency’s regional office, was abducted Feb 2 by gunmen in the provincial capital Quetta while he was on his way to work in a car carrying the UN emblem.

His Pakistani driver was shot dead.

It was the most high profile kidnapping of a Westerner in Pakistan since Islamist militants murdered Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl in Karachi in 2002.

A person claiming to represent the Baluchistan Liberation United Front (BLUF) said Monday: “He is alive.”

The caller, identifying himself as Shahak Balouch, made the statement to Online news agency, quashing rumours that the American had been killed and his body was to be dumped somehwere in Balochistan.

Balouch said his group had nothing to do with the Monday morning hoax call to the Quetta Press Club that set off the murder rumour.

A television channel, Express News, said the hoax call was made from Nushki town, about 100 km southwest of Quetta.

UN spokesperson Amena Kemal immediately renewed the demand for Solecki’s release.

She said the UN was relying on the Pakistan government and the people of Pakistan to help secure his release and to provide security to other staff members of the UN.

The BLUF has been demanding the release of 141 female Baluch detainees and information about 6,000 missing men.

Solecki’s mother has appealed to the abductors for his release. “I hear John may be really sick and he needs medication,” she said. “My husband and I are old, we want to be with John again. We cannot bear the sorrow of losing John.”

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