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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 January 2006, 17:34 GMT
Pakistan aiding hunt for Iranians
By Zaffar Abbas
BBC News, Islamabad

Pakistan says it is working closely with Tehran to help locate nine Iranian border guards who have reportedly been abducted by a gang of criminals.

Iran has claimed the guards, abducted in the south-east of the country, are now being held captive in Pakistan.

A Pakistani official told the BBC Islamabad is working with Iran to find the guards, though it has no evidence yet that they are on its territory.

A group claiming to hold the men has said it wants to exchange them.

The statement, attributed to a group calling itself Jundallah or Soldiers of Allah, said it had abducted the guards from the Iranian border region of Saravan.

The group asked for the release of 16 of its members held by the Iranian authorities in exchange for the kidnapped officials.

Iran has not commented on the claim, which was aired on Saturday on Dubai-based Arabic TV station, Al Arabiya.

'Transferred'

Pakistan's foreign ministry spokeswoman, Tasnim Aslam, told the BBC that Tehran had approached Islamabad and efforts were being made to locate the abducted Iranian security officials.

She said the two countries had excellent relations and had been regularly co-operating with each other in combating terrorism in the region.

However, she said, so far the Pakistani authorities had not been able to find any lead that would suggest that the abducted Iranian border guards were being kept somewhere in Pakistani territory.

Earlier, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, said in Tehran that they have reason to believe that the abducted persons had been transferred to Pakistan.

He did not specify who the kidnappers were, but said interior ministry forces were also pursuing the issue.




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