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Page last updated at 13:21 GMT, Thursday, 13 November 2008

Iran envoy abducted in Pakistan

The car of the kidnapped Iranian diplomat
The diplomat's car was hit by bullets

Gunmen have kidnapped a diplomat from Iran and killed his guard in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar, police say.

The Iranian diplomat is a commercial attache at the consulate.

The incident happened a day after an American aid worker and his driver were shot dead as they travelled to work in a suburb of the city.

Violence has surged in the north-west in recent months with a wave of attacks blamed on Islamist militants.

A police officer told the AFP news agency that the diplomat, named as Heshmatollah Attarzadeh, was travelling to the consulate in Peshawar when the gunmen attacked his car.

"The attackers sprayed bullets, forcing the car to stop and then dragged out the diplomat while his police guard was killed," Banaras Khan said.

Iran's foreign ministry has condemned the kidnapping as "a terrorist act" and summoned Pakistan's ambassador to discuss the incident.

Worsening security

The gunmen took away the diplomat in a separate vehicle, another policeman said.

Map

Authorities have cordoned off the city's main road and are trying to trace the diplomat.

In a similar incident two months ago, unknown gunmen kidnapped Afghan consul-general, Abdul Khaliq Farahi, from the same locality after killing his driver. Mr Farahi is still missing.

On Tuesday, American aid worker Stephen Vance and his driver were killed just outside their office in the University Town area in Peshawar. It is still not clear who the attackers were.

Mr Vance worked for Cooperative Housing Foundation (CHF) International, which is working to implement US-funded projects to help develop the troubled tribal belt.

Areas close to Peshawar - the biggest city in north-west Pakistan - are known to be Taleban and al-Qaeda strongholds.

The region has been hit by several bombings and suicide attacks recently.

On Tuesday, a suicide bomber walked up to the gate of a stadium in Peshawar and blew himself up.

The attack happened as the governor of North-West Frontier Province left after a sports tournament.

He was unhurt but at least one man was killed and three people were injured.

The BBC's Mark Dummett in Islamabad says that the security situation across Pakistan has steadily worsened over the past few years, with Taleban militants holding sway over a large stretch of North-West Frontier Province.

But our correspondent says attacks on foreigners in Pakistan are rare. Across the border in Afghanistan aid workers and other foreigners have increasingly been targeted in recent months.

Gunmen attacked the car of a US diplomat in Peshawar in August, but she was unhurt.



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