American UN worker seized in Pakistan
- Police seek seized American UN worker in Pakistan
By ABDUL SATTAR
QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) Gunmen seized an American U.N. worker as he
rode to work Monday, shooting and killing his driver, U.N. and
Pakistani authorities said. His Land Cruiser was found rammed against
a wall, punctured by at least one bullet hole.
The United Nations expressed "extreme shock and dismay" at the rare
attack in a region that has largely been spared the al-Qaida and
Taliban insurgency wracking much of northwestern Pakistan.
The government called the abduction of John Solecki, head of the U.N.
refugee office in the southwestern city of Quetta, a "dastardly
terrorist act." But police said it was not clear whether Islamist
militants, criminals seeking a ransom payment or members of a
regional separatist group were responsible.
Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province, which partly borders
Afghanistan. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has worked for
three decades in the region helping hundreds of thousands of Afghans
fleeing violence in their homeland.
Police increased patrols and security checks along roads leading to
Afghanistan, some 60 miles (95 kilometers) away, fearing Solecki may
be taken there.
While a violent region, Baluchistan has largely been spared the al-
Qaida and Taliban insurgency in northwestern Pakistan, where several
foreigners have been attacked or kidnapped in recent months. In
August, Lynne Tracy, the top U.S. diplomat in the northwest, narrowly
survived an attack on her vehicle in Peshawar by suspected militants.
In November, also in Peshawar, gunmen shot and killed American aid
worker Stephen Vance.
Senior police officer Khalid Masood said Solecki has worked in Quetta
for more than two years. Ron Redmond, a UNHCR spokesman in Geneva,
confirmed he is an American citizen.
The United Nations expressed "extreme shock and dismay" at the
kidnapping and the killing of the driver.
"We strongly condemn this attack on humanitarian workers in Pakistan
who have been doing their utmost to deliver their humanitarian
mission," it said in a statement.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood said he
could not confirm any details.
"There is an investigation going on to see what happened to this
individual," Wood said. "We obviously will be in touch with the
At the scene of the kidnapping in an upscale neighborhood, a UNHCR
Land Cruiser with at least one bullet hole was rammed against a wall.
Solecki did not have a police escort, Masood said. "We have learned
that he usually did not like to have an escort with him on his way to
Soon after the attack, authorities sealed exit routes from the city,
officers said. Police also increased patrols and security checks
along roads leading to Afghanistan, fearing Solecki may be taken
Quetta has been mentioned by Afghan officials as a likely hiding
place for Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders who are thought to
have fled Afghanistan after the U.S. invasion in 2001.
Baluchistan is also the scene of a low-level insurgency driven by
nationalist groups wanting more regional autonomy. They are not known
to target foreigners.
General crime has also been on the rise in many parts of Pakistan,
including kidnappings for ransom. An Iranian diplomat was abducted in
Peshawar last year, and other foreigners and Afghans have been taken.
It was not clear whether the abduction would impact U.N. work in
Pakistan. The bombing of Islamabad's Marriott hotel in September
prompted new U.N. rules prohibiting expatriate staff from living with
their children in cities including Quetta.
Associated Press writers Asif Shahzad and Nahal Toosi in Islamabad
and Matiullah Achakzai in Chaman contributed to this report.
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