- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ISLAMABAD (AP) - The United Nations said Wednesday it is very concerned about the health of an American official from its refugee agency who was kidnapped in Pakistan and said it is working to win his release.

After shooting to death his driver, armed men seized John Solecki on Feb. 2 as he drove to work in the western city of Quetta.

A previously unknown group has claimed responsibility and threatened to kill him unless the government releases hundreds of people allegedly detained by security forces.

The group’s name suggests they are ethnic nationalists from the surrounding province of Baluchistan, where a low-level insurgency has continued for years. Quetta is also reputedly a hub for Taliban militants fighting in neighboring Afghanistan.

A spokesman for the group reportedly told a Pakistani news agency Monday that Solecki was suffering from a cardiac problem.

The U.N. said it was “very concerned about the apparent deterioration of John’s health” and that his well-being was his captors’ responsibility.

The world body is willing to speak directly to those holding him to find a “safe way” to secure his release, it said in a statement.

Solecki is one of a string of foreigners kidnapped in Pakistan’s border regions in recent months.

In February, Taliban militants released a Chinese telecommunications engineer but apparently beheaded a Polish geologist. Two diplomats _ one Afghan, one Iranian _ and a Canadian woman remain missing.

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