Bicyclist from China kidnapped in Pakistan

May 20

Taliban militants have kidnapped a tourist from China who was riding a bicycle in northwest Pakistan, the latest incident of violence targeting bicyclists who attempt to make ill-advised trips across the country.

Security officials said the man was kidnapped Monday near Dera Ismail Khan. He was en route from the eastern city of Lahore to the western province of Baluchistan, they said.

Officials suspect that two armed men on a motorcycle accosted the bicyclist. Authorities later recovered the man’s bicycle, bag, passport and other travel documents near the border of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the South Waziristan region.

In a message sent to Pakistani media outlets Tuesday, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban took credit for the abduction.

“We want our detained militants to be released and we kidnapped him for this purpose,” Abdullah Bahar Mehsud of the group’s Shehryar Mehsud faction, told Pakistan’s Express News.

Tasnim Aslam, a spokeswoman for Pakistan’s Foreign Office, said security officials were working to locate the man and secure his release.

“We are in touch with Chinese authorities on this, and Pakistani police are trying to arrest the culprits,” Aslam said.

Faqir Muhammad, a police official in Dera Ismail Khan, said officers are targeting known militant hideouts as part of the search.

“No clues as yet, but the hunt is on,” Muhammad said.

A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad declined to comment. The case is one of many, along with incidents of terrorism, that have tested relations between the two countries over the years.

The Beijing government and Chinese investors have poured billions of dollars into Pakistani public works projects and business ventures, but that investment has not resulted in increased security for Chinese nationals who work in Pakistan or travel to the country.

In May 2004, three Chinese engineers were killed in a terrorist attack on Gwadar port in Baluchistan. In October that year, two Chinese engineers were kidnapped while working on a new dam in South Waziristan. One of them was subsequently killed during a rescue operation.

Last year, two Chinese nationals were among 11 people killed when a Taliban faction assaulted a base camp for climbers attempting to ascend Nanga Parbat, Pakistan’s second-tallest mountain. The militants, angered over a U.S. drone strike that killed a senior Taliban commander, executed the climbers about 1 a.m. as they slept in their tents.

It was unclear Tuesday whether the bicyclist was traveling alone.

Dera Ismail Khan is in one of the most dangerous parts of Pakistan. Pakistani authorities essentially ban most foreigners from traveling there, partly because of safety concerns.

But foreign tourists in Pakistan continue to attempt cross-country bicycle tours.

In January, a Spanish cyclist was ambushed after he crossed from Iran into Baluchistan province. Javier Colorado Soriano survived, but his story made headlines around the globe because Pakistani officials said six police officers were killed trying to protect him during the assault.

Soriano, however, later told the Spanish La Vanguardia newspaper that Pakistani authorities had assigned only two guards. He said that both survived and that the slain police officers were killed in a separate incident in the violence-plagued province.

Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this story.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.
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