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Page last updated at 16:49 GMT, Monday, 22 February 2010

Kidnapped Pakistani Sikh beheaded in Khyber region

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A Pakistani Sikh has been beheaded after being kidnapped in the country's tribal north-west, officials say.

Jaspal Singh was seized while travelling in Khyber district a month ago. His body was found on Sunday.

Earlier reports that a second kidnapped Sikh, Mastan Singh, had been beheaded are not confirmed, officials now say.

Unidentified gunmen demanded ransoms in both cases. Sikhs are a tiny minority in Pakistan, but a sizeable community has lived in Khyber for over 200 years.

Khyber and neighbouring Orakzai region - where Mastan Singh was kidnapped - are home to crime syndicates involved in car-jackings and kidnappings and known to have links with extremist groups.

Pressure

Officials in Khyber say Jaspal Singh was among seven Sikhs travelling in the tribal district a month ago. He and two others were kidnapped by a group of armed men - four others in the party escaped.

Later, the family of Jaspal Singh received a ransom demand for 20 million rupees ($235,000) to be paid by last Saturday.

His body was found when members of his family arrived in the area on Sunday to negotiate his release.

Two other Sikh men still remain in the custody of the kidnappers, officials say.

Mastan Singh was kidnapped from the Bezot area in the neighbouring region of Orakzai one month ago.

There was a ransom demand for his release which was not met, officials said.

Many of the Sikhs in the Orakzai and Khyber regions own businesses or farms. But the community has come under increasing pressure as the influence of Islamist militants has grown in the area, BBC correspondents say.

Most of them have moved to Peshawar, and further east to cities in Punjab province.

There have been reports that Sikhs in the region have been subjected to jizya - an Islamic tax that is collected from non-Muslims.



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