QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — Armed men kidnapped a British Red Cross worker from the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta on Thursday, police said, highlighting the fragile security situation in the country.
The incident took place hours after Islamist militants elsewhere in the country killed 15 Pakistani security officers they seized last month close to the Afghan border and left their naked, bullet-riddled bodies sprawled on the ground.
Police officer Nazir Ahmed Kurd said the man was taken from a vehicle close to a Red Cross office in an upscale housing complex in Quetta. The assailants bundled him into their car and drove off. Kurd said the man was visiting a local school.
International Committee of the Red Cross spokeswoman Sitara Jabeen declined to disclose the man’s name or nationality, but confirmed a foreign employee was seized. The British High Commission said it was looking into the incident.
Baluchistan province is home to Islamist militants and separatist insurgents.
Both groups have kidnapped foreigners and locals in the region before.
Another officer, Ahsan Mahboob, said the British man was traveling with a Pakistani doctor and a driver. They were not taken, he said.
In 2009, an American working for the United Nations refugee agency in the city was kidnapped from the same district as the British aid worker. John Solecki was held for two months by the separatist Baluchistan Liberation United Front before he was released.
The 15 Pakistani officers from the paramilitary Frontier Constabulary were killed in retaliation for an army operation on Jan. 1 in northwest Pakistan that killed several militants, including a prominent commander, according to a statement from the Pakistani Taliban.
It alleged that troops also killed a woman and arrested others, “something that was forbidden and illegitimate in Islam as well as against tribal traditions.”
Their bodies were dumped in Shiwa town in the North Waziristan region, said local residents Sada-u-Alla and Salam Khan. Local Frontier Constabulary commander Ali Sher said his men were sent to the area to pick up the corpses.
The insurgents kidnapped them during a Dec. 22 attack on a Pakistani security base in the border region.
In recent months, some militant commanders and intelligence officials have claimed peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, one of the largest and most brutal militant groups, were under way. But other Pakistani Taliban commanders have dismissed this, and sporadic attacks have continued.
Tribal leaders and analysts speculate that the group, which has been pounded by Pakistani army offensives and American missile strikes over the last few years, is riven with internal splits.
Also Thursday, the Taliban freed 17 Pakistani boys after holding them for four months in neighboring Afghanistan, said Islam Zeb, a government administrator in Pakistan’s troubled Bajur tribal region.
He said others were still in the custody of Taliban, who seized a group of 40 boys in September. The boys went to Afghanistan’s Kunar province when a man invited them to play in a river there.
The Taliban earlier freed captives under the age of 12.
Ahmed reported from Islamabad. Associated Press writers Rasool Dawar in Peshawar, Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Anwarullah Khan from Quetta contributed to this report.