A Swiss couple kidnapped on holiday in Pakistan has been smuggled into the lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border, a notorious haven for Taliban and al Qaeda, provincial home secretary Zafarullah Baloch said on Monday.
Olivier David Och, 31, and Daniela Widmer, 28, were abducted on Friday while driving through Balochistan.
“We have information that the Swiss couple have been shifted to the tribal areas,” Baloch told AFP.
Baloch quoted eyewitnesses, saying there were five kidnappers who were speaking Pashto. “They were armed with sophisticated weapons and there is a possibility that the kidnappers had crossed the border and entered into Afghanistan.”
He added that the couple were probably transferred through the southwestern town of Zhob, but did not specify where precisely they were likely to be now. He said searches would continue in Balochistan and that it was still unclear whether they were kidnapped by criminals or militants.
However, Commissioner Zhob Ikhtiar Khan Bangulzai, who is supervising the search operation, said he believed the kidnappers were still in Balochistan and had not crossed the border.
“Security has been tightened on the routes leading to Afghanistan and South Waziristan. Stringent security measures were adopted on all unfrequented routes and they are virtually sealed off, thus, it is impossible to break up the security cover and cross the international frontiers,” he told media men.
The Balochistan Levies, Frontier Corps, security agencies and police are jointly making efforts to locate the kidnappers. “We have also sought the help of tribal elders, political and religious parties in the area,” said Ikhtiar Khan Bangulzai.
He added that it seemed as though the kidnappers had not reached their final destination, which is probably why they had not claimed responsibility nor established any contact to make ransom demands. “I am not sure who is behind the kidnapping because there are different factors involved in such criminal activities. They could be the Taliban or a small gang of kidnappers.”
(With additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2011.