Suspense over abducted UN diplomat’s fate

An unidentified caller claimed that UN diplomat John Solecki had been killed while hours later Blaoch group,which had abducted him,said he was alive.

Written by Agencies | Islamabad | Published: February 23, 2009 3:08 pm

Suspense hung over the fate of American UN diplomat John Solecki who was kidnapped in Pakistan’s Balochistan province with an unidentified caller claiming he had been killed and hours later the Blaoch group which had abducted him saying he was alive.

An unidentified caller had telephoned the Quetta Press Club to claim that Solecki had been killed by his abductors. The caller also said that his body would be “brought to Quetta Press Club after two hours”.

However,a spokesman for the Balochistan Liberation United Front,the group that kidnapped Solecki,later called reporters in Quetta and told them that the UN official was safe. He denied the report that Solecki had been killed.

The BLUF spokesman said medical facilities were being provided to the ailing Solecki. He also said no harm had been caused to Solecki.

Officials said they were investigating the anonymous call to the Press Club,which was traced to Noshki,a district located 250 km west of Quetta and near the border with Afghanistan.

Solecki,who heads the UNHCR office in southwestern Balochistan province,was kidnapped on February 2 by gunmen who killed his driver. The hitherto unheard of BLUF claimed responsibility for the abduction.

The UN urged Solecki’s abductors to make direct contact for negotiations on his release. However,the BLUF spurned this offer for direct talks and recently extended a deadline for Solecki’s execution for an unspecified period of time.

The Balochistan government has contacted tribal and political leaders to trace Solecki. Law enforcement agencies have formed three special teams to locate the UN official. Several suspects have also been detained for questioning.

The BLUF has demanded the release of 141 Baloch women it claimed were being held by Pakistani authorities and the recovery of thousands of “missing” men. Officials have dismissed the group’s claims about these persons being detained by security agencies.

Solecki’s 83-year-old mother Rose had made an emotional appeal for her son’s release on Saturday. “We want to be with John again…We cannot bear the shock of losing John,” she said in an audiotape released by the UNHCR.

“I’m appealing to the people of Balochistan for whatever support they can provide to secure my son’s safety and freedom,” Rose said.

“John has helped many people in Balochistan and now my son needs your help.”

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