ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani Taliban said on Tuesday they had kidnapped two Chinese telecommunications engineers and two Pakistanis and that abductions would continue until the government stopped attacking militants.
The two Chinese and a Pakistani driver and guard disappeared near the Afghan border on Friday as they were returning to a guest house after repairing a telecommunications tower.
China is a staunch ally of Pakistan and a major investor and the safety of Chinese nationals is a priority for any Pakistani government.
A Taliban spokesman based in the Swat Valley, to the east of Dir, claimed responsibility and said the four were in good health.
“Our aim is to hit the government’s interests wherever they are. We kidnap everyone irrespective of whether he’s Pakistani or Chinese and we’ll continue to do this until they stop killing our people,” the spokesman, Muslim Khan, said by telephone.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that the government was seeking to clarify what happened.
“We have already asked Pakistan to make every effort in a search and to ensure the safety of the lives of the two individuals,” ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a news conference in Beijing.
Al Qaeda- and Taliban-linked militants have targeted Chinese nationals in Pakistan’s northwest in the past.
Two Chinese engineers working on a hydro-electric project were kidnapped by militants in October 2004. One of the hostages and a militant commander were killed in a rescue operation.
The Pakistan government has announced a suspension of military operations in the northwest for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began on Tuesday, though a top official said security forces would respond with full force if attacked.