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Further talks needed to free engineers
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-10-13 07:51

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah, the governor of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province, told Chinese diplomats that the nation is stepping up its efforts to find a political solution to the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers.

The governor told an emergency meeting called by the Chinese side that the hostages were in the same room as the kidnappers and that no explosives were attached to them.

Abdullah Mehsood, Pakistani tribal commander and leader of the Islamic militants who kidnapped two Chinese engineers, makes a speech to the media in the Chagmalai area of the South Waziristan in this Reuters video image taken October 11, 2004. Islamic militants holding two Chinese engineers hostage in Pakistan threatened to kill one on Monday unless security forces ended a siege of their hideout, a tactic the interior minister said had echoes of Iraq. [Reuters]
As for the negotiations with Abdullah Mehsud, who claimed responsibility for the abduction, Hussain said 30 elders of the Mehsud tribe have consulted representatives of the provincial government to seek talks. A meeting of tribal elders with more participants would be held yesterday to decide ways to handle the kidnapping.

Pakistani Information and Broadcasting Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said during the talks that they needed one or two more days. He hoped a political solution could be achieved at yesterday's meeting.

During the meeting, Song Deheng, the political counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan, thanked the Pakistani side for its efforts to rescue the hostages. He urged Pakistan to take all effective measures for an early release of the engineers and keep the Chinese side informed of the latest developments.

Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao said on Monday that the abductors have called for the release of up to six of their accomplices currently in the custody of Pakistani authorities.

In an interview with the BBC, the minister said the kidnappers were under the control of Abdullah Mehsud, a former Taliban commander and chief of the militants in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal area.

Sherpao said that four militants were involved in the kidnapping - one Afghan, one Uzbek and two others probably of Pakistani origin.

The official said the abductors, through their messenger, are demanding the release of a number of their accomplices although their identities remain unclear.

Sherpao said security agents know where the hostages are being held, adding that the militants are wearing bomb belts and holding grenades.

China has started an emergency scheme and would keep in touch with the Pakistan 24 hours a day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said yesterday.

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