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Published: Monday, 2/2/2009

Police seek kidnapped American in Pakistan

ASSOCIATED PRESS

QUETTA, Pakistan Authorities searched for an American U.N. worker kidnapped Monday in southwestern Pakistan in an attack that underscored the security threats in the country as it battles al-Qaida militants.

The government called the abduction 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.

Gunmen seized John Solecki, head of the U.N. refugee office in the city of Quetta, as he traveled to work Monday morning, and shot and killed his driver, U.N. and Pakistani officials said.

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.

While a violent region, it has largely been spared the al-Qaida and Taliban insurgency wracking much of 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, gunmen shot and killed American aid worker Stephen Vance in the same city.

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.



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