Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan has appeared in a video aired by an Arabic-language channel, saying he is being held by Taliban militants. Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad this is the first word from the diplomat since he went missing on February 11 along with two colleagues while driving through a Pakistani border region on the way to the Afghan capital Kabul.
Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television broadcast the video on Saturday, showing Ambassador Tariq Azizuddin, his driver and security guard sitting on the ground in front of three masked gunmen.
|Duabi-based al-Arabiya shows video of Pakistan's kidnapped ambassador to Afghanistan, Tariq Azizuddin, 19 Apr 2008|
Speaking in Pakistan's official Urdu language, the diplomat said he and his colleagues are being held in comfortable conditions, but he said he is suffering from health problems.
Calling his kidnappers Taliban Mujahideen, the ambassador urged his government to meet their demands as soon as possible so he and his colleagues can be released and sent home. Ambassador Azizuddin did not say what the demands are.
Responding to the video message, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq said his government is making all efforts to secure the safe release of the diplomat, but he too declined to elaborate.
"We want his safe return to his family as soon as possible," he said. "Unfortunately, the nature of this issue is such that we cannot go into much discussion. We know that he is safe and the footage shown today also shows that he is safe."
Local media has reported that the kidnappers are demanding the release of an unspecified number of their colleagues arrested by Pakistani security forces.
Ambassador Azizuddin was kidnapped from the northwestern Khyber tribal region bordering Afghanistan, a day after Pakistani authorities announced the arrest of a key Taliban commander, Muallah Mansoor Dadullah.
The Taliban commander was hiding in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan after fleeing U.S-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. Dadullah is believed to have close links with the al-Qaida terror network.
Pakistan is an important U.S ally in the war on terror and has deployed tens of thousands of its forces on the border to discourage militants from taking refuge in its tribal regions.
Taliban and al-Qaida militants are also blamed for carrying out frequent suicide bomb attacks in Pakistan, killing hundreds of people since the beginning of this year.