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Page last updated at 16:28 GMT, Saturday, 19 April 2008 17:28 UK

Pakistan envoy 'held by Taleban'

Footage of Tariq Azizuddin shown on al-Arabiya 19 April
The video of Tariq Azizuddin showed him surrounded by armed men

Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan, who went missing in February, has appeared in a video saying he is being held by Taleban militants.

Armed men surrounded Tariq Azizuddin in the footage, shown on Dubai-based al-Arabiya television.

He urged Pakistan's government to meet a demand for an exchange of captives.

It is the first public statement by the envoy since he disappeared in the border area between the two countries, on his way to the Afghan capital Kabul.

In comments translated into Arabic by the channel, Mr Azizuddin said he, along with his driver and his bodyguard, had been kidnapped by "mujahideen from the Taleban".

He added that they were being held "in comfortable conditions" and "looked after".

"We have no problems, but I suffer health problems such as high blood pressure and heart pains," he said.

No escort

Appealing directly to Pakistan's ambassadors in Iran and China and the foreign secretary, he said: "I urge them to do what they can to keep us alive and fulfil all the Taleban's demands as soon as possible so we can be released and return home, God willing."

Map

A Taleban spokesman said in February that the group would exchange Mr Azizuddin for a Taleban commander captured by Pakistani security forces.

Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq told Reuters news agency: "Yes, it is him, but... we're not in a position to verify if he's in the custody of the Taleban."

Mr Sadiq declined to confirm whether the captors had expressed any demands for the envoy's release.

The issue is very sensitive and we do not want to jeopardise his security by discussing it in too much details," he said.

Mr Azizuddin was travelling from the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar when he was abducted.

Many areas in the border region with Afghanistan are strongholds of pro-Taleban militants, and hundreds of people have been kidnapped in recent years.

The envoy said he had been seized in the Khyber area - the quickest way between Peshawar and Kabul.

The historic Khyber Pass is the main trade route supplying reinforcements and supplies to the US and Nato forces in Afghanistan.

It is also one of the best protected areas, with a heavy contingent of tribal police.

Mr Azizuddin is said to have previously travelled to Kabul by road, often without a tribal escort.


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