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Two abducted Chinese engineers now safe
Updated: 2004-10-10 16:31

Two Chinese engineers who were abducted in a tense Pakistani border region have been released by their kidnappers and are now in the safe custody of tribal elders, officials said Sunday.

The engineers were ambushed on Saturday morning by five gunmen in South Waziristan -- a remote tribal region where al-Qaida-linked militants are active -- as they traveled to the construction site of a dam.

A Chinese embassy official said tribal elders had held talks with the kidnappers, and the two men were transferred into the custody of the elders late Saturday. He said the embassy was hopeful the men would be free soon.

``They (the engineers) are still under the supervision of local tribal people, and we don't know their exact location. The thing is that they are safe,'' the official said on condition of anonymity in Islamabad.

Pakistani police confirmed the kidnappers handed the Chinese over to tribal elders late Saturday, and that the kidnappers had made no demands.

``They should have been released by now,'' said Habibur Rahman, deputy inspector general of police in Dera Ismail Khan, a town near South Waziristan.

China's state-run news agency Xinhua has named the engineers as Wang Ende and Wang Peng.

At least one Pakistan security guard was kidnapped with the Chinese. His status was not immediately clear.

South Waziristan -- bordering Afghanistan -- has been wracked by violence this year as the army has conducted a series of operations against suspected foreign militants and local supporters, killing scores of them.

The identities, nationalities and motive of the kidnappers were unclear.

The two engineers are among between 70 and 80 Chinese working for a Chinese state construction company on the Gomal Zam dam, a 12 billion rupee (US$203 million) project to generate electricity and store water. The dam lies about 350 kilometers west of Islamabad.

The embassy official said none of the workers had been evacuated, but they had been advised to restrict their movements.

In recent years, the two countries have expanded cooperation in various fields, including in trade, economy and infrastructure development.

On Saturday, Beijing appealed for Pakistan to strengthen security at project sites where Chinese people are working. The kidnapping is the latest in a series of attacks against Chinese workers in Pakistan and Afghanistan this year.

On May 3, a car packed with explosives detonated near a bus carrying Chinese engineers to a deep seaport project at Gawadar in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province, killing three of them and injuring 11 other people. Ethnic Baluch nationalists were suspected to be responsible.

On June 10, unidentified assailants shot dead 11 Chinese road workers in Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan in the deadliest attack on foreign civilians in the country since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.

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