Arshad Butt/AP
John Solecki

Kidnapped UN Worker Pleads for Life a Week After Alleged Beheading

February 14, 2009 08:01 AM
by Josh Katz
Militants who abducted an American UN worker have made their demands in one of the recent kidnappings to occur in Pakistan.

Kidnappers Threaten to Kill UN Worker

On Friday, kidnappers claiming to be part of the Baluchistan Liberation United Front (BLUF) threatened to kill an American UN worker “within 72 hours unless authorities release 141 women allegedly held in Pakistan,” according to the Associated Press. The kidnappers revealed their message in a letter and an apparent video of the captured American, John Solecki.

Quetta office of Online International News Network, a news agency based in Pakistan, said an anonymous telephone call told them to pick up a package. The package contained a letter and a cell phone’s memory card with the video clip.

The “grainy” 20-second video depicts a blindfolded Solecki covered in a shawl. "I am not feeling well. I am sick and in trouble. Please help solve the problem soon so that I can gain my release," Solecki says. In the clip, he says that his message is directed to the United Nations, according to AP.

On Feb. 2, four suspected Islamic militants kidnapped Solecki, an American who heads the UN High Commissioner for Refugees office in Quetta, a city in southwestern Pakistan. The gunmen killed Solecki’s driver during the kidnapping, according to Bloomberg.

The abduction represents the “most high-profile abduction of a Westerner in several years, and the third attack in five months on Americans working in Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtun zone bordering Afghanistan in the country’s west,” Bloomberg reported.

Pakistan's foreign ministry called the incident a “dastardly terrorist act,” according to Voice of America.

Background: U.S. regional activities; recent kidnappings

The threat also comes “a week after Taliban militants apparently beheaded a Polish geologist abducted in another border area of Pakistan after failing to agree to a prisoner swap,” according to AP.

On Feb. 8, kidnappers apparently beheaded Polish geologist Piotr Stanczak; they seized the employee of an oil and natural gas company on Sept. 28 in Northwest Pakistan. The New York Daily News reported that the terrorists called for the release of fellow militants, including one that participated in the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.

In mid November 2008, Iranian diplomat Heshmatollah Attarzadeh Niyaki was kidnapped in Peshawar, Pakistan. That 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.

Members of the Afghan Taliban have sought refuge in Quetta since 2002, and the United States has attempted to reduce the popularity of Islamic militants in the Pashtun areas by promising $750 million over five years for development of the area, according to Bloomberg.

Reference: BLUF

BLUF is a “secular and nationalist guerrilla organisation seeking independence from Pakistan,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald. The group has been fighting to obtain more autonomy, oil and gas wealth for Balochistan province.

The Sydney Morning Herald also indicates that “Recently, some extremist groups, like BLUF, have gone a step further to demand a complete separation of the region from Pakistan.”

BLUF launched their more violent campaign in 2005 when the government of President Pervez Musharraf went on the offensive against rebels in the province. According to the Herald, “The insurgency has claimed hundreds of lives and several power and communication installations destroyed or damaged."

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines