Foreign aid workers: Police register case in Multan kidnapping

Clues unravel into the kidnapping of German national Bernd, 70, and Italian national Giovanni, 24.


Owais Jafri January 21, 2012

MULTAN:


A case has been registered against unidentified gunmen who kidnapped a German aid worker and his Italian colleague overnight in Multan, local police said on Friday.


“Three gunmen barged into a house and abducted an Italian and a German national at gunpoint on Thursday evening,” Multan city police officer Aamir Zulfiqar Khan told AFP. “The two men were working for a foreign non-governmental organisation.”

The foreigners reportedly work for an aid group, Welthungerhilfe, which helped victims from the devastating 2010 floods.

They have been identified as German national Bernd Johannes, 70, and Italian national Giovanni, 24.

Bernd had arrived in Multan on January 11, while Giovanni arrived on January 17 from Islamabad.

There was no claim of responsibility for the abductions in Multan.

The police have lodged an FIR in the Cantt police station in Multan on the application of Noman Basher, an administration officer of Welthungerhilfe, against the unidentified kidnappers.

CPO Amir Zulfiqar Khan told reporters that the foreigners had ‘violated’ the law as they failed to inform the authorities that they had been working in Multan for one and a half year.

IG Punjab and Punjab home secretary specially arrived in Multan on Friday to monitor the investigations, as directed by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who is currently in Germany.

IG Punjab has given special orders to seal the boundary of Punjab, which connects to Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Thursday’s account

A local security official said that the kidnappers pistol-whipped a private security guard, then snatched the aid workers, but left behind a Western woman in the house that the group rented.

The woman, identified as Julia, told the media that the abductors told them that they belonged to the Taliban. Threatening to kill them, the abductors also showed the victims their suicide jackets.

Police sources said it was more likely that the kidnappers belonged to a banned militant religious organisation.

Police officials further said that security guards present at the entrance of the colony, where the foreigners resided, said they did not see anyone entering or leaving the premises of the colony.

However, at the same time the guards could not give an account of what happened during their shift changes.

Eyewitnesses, however, said that a white car, with four persons, followed the vehicle of the foreigners on Thursday.

Investigations also revealed that one of the masked men was speaking Urdu and English, while the other three were speaking Pushto.

The police found a bag, thought to belong to the abductors, in the house, from which they recovered ropes, injections and toxins.

Some of the injections were used, possibly on the victims before they were taken away.

Foreign ministries confirm abduction

The Italian foreign ministry confirmed that one of its citizens had been kidnapped in Punjab, but did not release any other details.

It said it was in “permanent contact” with the man’s family and had activated its crisis unit, but called for discretion and cooperation from the media “so as not to compromise efforts at freeing our compatriot”.

The German foreign ministry said Berlin was “aware of the reports and is in the process of verifying them in cooperation with the Pakistani authorities”.

(with additional input from AFP)

Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2012. 

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