- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2008

CAIRO (AP) — Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan appeared on a video aired yesterday by an Arab satellite channel, saying he was kidnapped by Taliban militants more than two months ago.

Ambassador Tariq Azizuddin, flanked by his driver and his bodyguard, was shown sitting on the ground amid green brush in front of three masked men wearing traditional robes and holding automatic weapons.

“For 27 days, we have lived comfortably. … They take care of us and they respect us,” Mr. Azizuddin said, in comments dubbed over in Arabic. The roughly two-minute clip appeared on Al Arabiya television.

It was the first word from Mr. Azizuddin since he disappeared Feb. 11 near Pakistan’s volatile border with Afghanistan. But his reference to having been held for 27 days suggests that the video was made more than a month ago.

“We don’t have any problems, but I suffer from health issues such as hypertension and heart pain,” the white-bearded Mr. Azizuddin said.

He urged Pakistan’s ambassadors in Iran and China, as well as the country’s Foreign Ministry, to comply with Taliban demands. He did not elaborate.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said yesterday it was studying the footage, but would not comment on whether it had received any specific demands from Mr. Azizuddin’s kidnappers.

“We knew that he is alive and he is safe,” ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq said. “We have seen the video, and the safe release of our ambassador is our highest priority.”

None of the other five men pictured in the video — Mr. Azizuddin’s driver and bodyguard, plus three apparent militants — spoke on camera.

Pakistani authorities have said Mr. Azizuddin was heading to the Afghan capital, Kabul, from the northwestern Pakistani town of Peshawar when he went missing. He disappeared just seven days before Pakistan’s parliamentary elections, which brought heightened tension and security.

Later yesterday, a spokesman for an umbrella group of Pakistani Taliban militants called Tehrik-e-Taliban denied involvement in Mr. Azizuddin’s kidnapping.

Maulana Muhammad Umer said the ambassador may have been abducted by Afghan militants based in Pakistan, but that Pakistani Taliban followers had no knowledge of it.


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