Kidnapped American 'not threatened' in Pakistan

Nov 30, -0001
LAHORE: The American aid expert kidnapped at gunpoint in Pakistan had not been threatened and was working legally in the country, a colleague told AFP on condition of anonymity Monday.Police have so far drawn a blank over the kidnapping that saw Warren Weinstein struck on the head with a pistol and driven off from his home in Lahore by gunmen in the early hours of Saturday.There has been no claim of responsibility and the most officers have been able to establish is that he was targeted because of his nationality, particularly sensitive in a country with rampant anti-Americanism."We are unclear why Weinstein was kidnapped. We don't know what the motives are," said a senior Pakistani employee at J.E. Austin Associates, the Virginia-based consultancy for which the American works."Weinstein never told us that he received any threats. Had he received any threats, I certainly would have known. He was the country head of our organisation and had been here for the last seven years," said his colleague.The American lived in Model Town, an upmarket Lahore neighbourhood once home to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, for five or six years, using the ground floor as an office and the first floor as a residence."His contract was expiring on August 15 and he was expected to leave Pakistan by end of this month," said the colleague.When asked to comment about claims that Weinstein did not inform Pakistani authorities that he was in Lahore, the colleague said: "Weinstein was staying here legally. The authorities should have been aware of his presence in the area as he had been living here for more than five years.""I am at a loss to understand what happened," said the colleague. "We are in a state of shock."Weinstein travelled widely in the country, working on projects that focused on private-sector development and economic growth, and visited only safe parts of the northwest, where the Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked groups have bases.He has been described as "successful" and "down to earth".For a second day running, police told AFP that they had no leads.Neighbours and shopkeepers in Model Town told AFP they had no idea an American lived in the relatively innocuous two-storey villa, saying that the occupants kept a very low profile, perhaps customary for security precautions."They never met others in the area. No one knew them, even the security guards stayed inside the four walls," said Mohammad Anwar, 58, who has a flour shop in the area.Rehan Sabir Ali, 36, who has had a grocers in a next street for the last 15 years said no foreigner ever came into the shop."We sometimes saw cars coming out of the house. I was often amazed about why we didn't see the inmates of this house. We thought it is some NGO's office because the people had a mysterious living. They never met the neighbours."Anti-American tensions are at an all-time high in Pakistan after a covert US raid killed Osama bin Laden on May 2.Pakistani-US relations are in dire straits, set back seriously by Pakistan's seven-week detention of a CIA contractor who killed two men in Lahore in January and the American operation to kill bin Laden.US citizen Raymond Davis was eventually released after $2 million in blood money was paid to the families of the dead, but the incident sparked huge anger in Pakistan and raised deep suspicions about covert CIA operations.Washington last Monday revised a travel warning, saying that Americans throughout Pakistan have been kidnapped for ransom or for personal reasons.On July 1, a Swiss couple were seized while on holiday in Baluchistan, a sparsely-populated southwestern province bordering Iran and Afghanistan known for separatist violence and Taliban activity.Wali-ur Rehman, deputy chief of Pakistan's umbrella Taliban faction later claimed responsibility for that kidnapping.In February 2009, an American UN official was also kidnapped and held for two months in Baluchistan. AGENCIES




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