Associated Press
A Pakistani police officer looks at the shattered windshield of an Iranian diplomat's car after
an attack in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Pakistan Arrests Five but Iranian Diplomat Still Held Captive

November 17, 2008 09:53 AM
by Isabel Cowles
Pakistani officials have detained five suspects and found new clues into the kidnapping of Iranian diplomat Hesmatollah Atharzadeh in Peshawar, Pakistan.

New Clues to Pakistan Kidnapping

New clues have been discovered to illuminate the case of the abducted Iranian diplomat, Heshmatollah Attarzadeh Niyaki, who was kidnapped Thursday while leaving his home in Peshawar, Pakistan, a town in the northwest province of the country.

Consul-General Mohammad-Eqbal Ali-Asghar met with the governor of Peshawar province, Owais Ahmed Ghani, on Saturday to discuss the events. During the meeting, Ghani said he was hopeful that “massive efforts” by the police would lead to Attarzadeh’s release.

According to Ghani, those efforts include tightening security in and around the city and carrying out extensive search operations. Ghani also noted that the police have found new clues about the event, though he did not specify what those clues were.

Thus far, five suspects have been arrested and are currently under investigation by Pakistani authorities.

Ghani condemned the attack, calling it a “shameful event” for Pakistan. Meanwhile, Iran’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Mashallah Shakeri explained that officials in Pakistan view the act as an effort to undermine good relations between Iran and Pakistan, noting that positive Tehran-Islamabad relations are intolerable to terrorists behind the incident.

Background: Atharzadeh abducted Nov. 13

Gunmen abducted Iranian diplomat Hesmatollah Atharzadeh, the commercial counselor at the Iranian consulate, as he was leaving his house in a suburban region of Peshawar, Pakistan, Nov. 13. Atharzadeh’s car was riddled with bullets before his attackers dragged him from the site. Atharzadeh’s guard and driver were killed in the attack, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The incident came soon after American aid worker Stephen D. Vance was assassinated in Pakistan, a serious blow to U.S. efforts to secure the region. Vance worked for CHF International, an American aide group that seeks to develop infrastructure in the region. Police suspect that Islamic militants are responsible for the killing.

Until recently, Pashwar was considered a relatively safe area. But al-Qaida and Taliban militants have found hideouts throughout the area and have increased attacks and kidnappings over the last few months.

Kidnappings in the suburbs, where many diplomats live, have become so prevalent that many of the wealthier inhabitants have fled, leaving those neighborhoods to political officials and middle-class residents, The New York Times reports.

Preshwar is a headquarters for the Pakistan military: helicopter gunships currently patrol the region. Nevertheless, Taliban intelligence appears to be extremely advanced, allowing terrorists to pinpoint and target important political figures.

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