QUETTA, Pakistan - Armed men kidnapped a British Red Cross worker from the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta yesterday, police and the Red Cross said, highlighting the fragile security situation in the country.
The kidnapping took place hours after Islamist militants elsewhere in the country killed 15 Pakistani security officers they seized last month close to the Afghan border, leaving their naked, bullet-riddled bodies sprawled on the ground.
Police officer Nazir Ahmed Kurd said the man was taken from a vehicle in an upscale housing complex in Quetta. The assailants bundled him into their car and drove off. Kurd said the man was visiting a local school.
Sitara Jabeen, an International Committee of the Red Cross spokeswoman, said health program manager Khalil Rasjed Dale, a British national, was on his way home from work in a clearly marked Red Cross vehicle when he was seized near his residence.
In a statement, she said despite the incident, the Red Cross would continue its humanitarian work in Pakistan. She called for a “rapid and unconditional release’’ of Dale.
Baluchistan Province is home to Islamist militants and separatist insurgents.
Both groups have kidnapped foreigners and locals in the region before.
Another officer, Ahsan Mahboob, said the British man was traveling with a Pakistani doctor and a driver who were not abducted.
In 2009, an American working for the United Nations refugee agency in the city was kidnapped from the same district as the British aid worker. John Solecki was held for two months by the separatist Baluchistan Liberation United Front before he was released.
The 15 Pakistani officers from the paramilitary Frontier Constabulary were killed in retaliation for an army operation on Jan. 1 in northwest Pakistan that killed several militants, including a prominent commander, according to a statement from the Pakistani Taliban.
It alleged that troops also killed a woman and arrested others, “something that was forbidden and illegitimate in Islam as well as against tribal traditions.’’
The troops’ bodies were dumped in Shiwa town in the North Waziristan region, said local residents Sada-u-Alla and Salam Khan. Local Frontier Constabulary commander Ali Sher said his men were sent to the area to pick up the corpses.
The insurgents kidnapped them during a Dec. 22 attack on a Pakistani security base in the border region.
In recent months, some militant commanders and intelligence officials have claimed that peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, one of the largest and most brutal militant groups, were underway. But other Pakistani Taliban commanders have dismissed this, and sporadic attacks have continued.
Tribal leaders and analysts speculate that the group, which has been pounded by Pakistani Army offensives and American missile strikes over the last few years, is riven with internal splits.
Also yesterday, the Taliban freed 17 Pakistani boys after holding them for four months in neighboring Afghanistan, said Islam Zeb, a government administrator in Pakistan’s troubled Bajur tribal region.
He said others were still in the custody of Taliban, who seized a group of 40 boys in September. The boys went to Afghanistan’s Kunar Province when a man invited them to play in a river there.
The Taliban earlier freed captives under the age of 12.