US citizen kidnapped in Pakistan: Police

Kidnap for ransom is relatively common in Pakistan, though foreigners are not often targets.

Lahore: Gunmen abducted an American man from his home in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Saturday, officials said, an unusually brazen raid that showed the threat to foreigners living in the militancy-wracked country.

The American embassy identified the victim as Warren Weinstein. A man by that name serves as the Pakistan country director for JE Austin Associates, a development contractor that works with the aid arm of the American government, according to a profile on the LinkedIn networking website.

The profile says that Weinstein is based in Lahore and had been in Pakistan for seven years. Calls to the company in the United States were not immediately answered.

According to Pakistani police, between eight and 10 assailants broke into the American`s house in an upscale neighbourhood in Lahore after persuading the guards to open the gate by saying they wanted to give them food — an act of sharing common during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Police officer Attiqur Rehman said the motive for the attack was not immediately clear.

Foreigners have frequently been targeted by militants in Pakistan in recent years, but it is unusual for the assailants to stage such a raid on a victim`s home. Also, kidnappings for ransom are common in Pakistan, though most of the victims are Pakistani.
Abductions are usually carried out by criminal gangs, though ransoms are also believed to help fund militant groups.

The Pakistani Taliban claim to be currently holding two people from Switzerland kidnapped earlier this summer while they were travelling through a remote and dangerous southwestern region.

Americans in Pakistan are considered specially at risk from militant attack because the insurgents oppose Islamabad`s alliance with Washington and the US-led war in Afghanistan. US diplomats, aid workers and others are urged to take strong security precautions.

Ties between Washington and Islamabad plummeted this year following the shooting in Lahore of two Pakistanis by a CIA contractor, who was held in jail in the city of 10 million people for two months despite pleas by Washington for his release. The unilateral American raid on Osama bin Laden on May 02 further soured ties and led to increased scrutiny on Americans living in Pakistan.

Earlier this week, the US State Department issued a travel warning for its citizens saying that American diplomats are facing increased harassment and they, along with aid workers and journalists, have been falsely identified as spies in the local media.

According to JE Austin Associates Website, Weinstein is a recognised expert in international development with twenty-five years experience, proficient in six foreign languages and has a PhD in International Law & Economics. He currently head of a program that was seeking to strengthening the competitiveness of Pakistani industries.

Bureau Report

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