MULTAN: Two Europeans working with a German NGO for flood rehabilitation in Multan were abducted on Thursday evening from Multan.
Giovanni and Bernd, employees of the "Welthungerhilfe" (German NGO), were returning from Kot Addu after visiting flood hit areas, when they were kidnapped at about 7:20 pm from Western Fort colony, Qasim Bela.
Of those kidnapped Bernd Johannes, who was previously reported as a German, is in fact a Dutch national and was working as an administration officer for south Punjab region based out of Multan. His companion, Giovanni was an Italian national and was working as the program administrator in the same non-governmental organisation.
Intelligence personnel looking in to the case confirmed that foreigners had been missing for last many hours. Following their abduction, their cell phones had been switched off.
A spokesperson for Welthungerhilfe Farzana Shah denied having any information about the matter and said that she could not confirm whether the two personnel had been kidnapped, only that the concerned personnel were out of reach.
An eye witnesses, though, told The Express Tribune that four masked, armed men drove up to their compound in a four wheel drive. Three of them entered the NGO's building and brought the two aid workers outside with them, stripped naked. They were then moved to an unknown location outside the colony.
According to police officials, one reason for stripping the men could be that the abductors did not wish to be traced via any homing device.
City Police Officer (CPO) Amir Zulfiqar Khan has started questioning neighbours as well as guards at the colony.
Police have cordoned off Multan city and checks on all vehicles entering or exiting Multan have been ordered.
Regional Police Officer (RPO) Multan, Mubarik Athar have alerted District Police Officers (DPO) of Multan, Vehari, Khanewal, Bahawalpur and Muzaffargarh too.
Welthungerhilfe has been working in the region for flood affectees. Farzana Shah said that the focal person for security of their organisation was in contact with local security authorities.
Italy confirms kidnapping of citizen
The Italian foreign ministry in Rome issued a statement, without giving further details on his identity.
"(The foreign ministry) confirms the abduction today of an Italian citizen in Multan, in the south of Punjab province," it said. "The ministry is in permanent contact with the family of the kidnapped person."
The ministry has activated its crisis unit and minister Giulio Terzi has asked to be constantly informed of developments, the statement said.
"As already in the past in similar situations," the ministry "will be discreet and is seeking cooperation from the media in this context so as not to compromise efforts at freeing our compatriot," said the foreign ministry statement.