CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan appeared on a video aired Saturday 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,” Azizuddin said, in comments dubbed over in Arabic. The roughly two-minute clip appeared on Al-Arabiya television.
It was the first word from 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 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 Saturday that it was studying the footage, but would not comment on whether it had received any specific demands from 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.” “For the safety of our ambassador, we limit our comments,” Sadiq said.
None of the other five men pictured, Azizuddin’s driver and bodyguard, plus three apparent militants, speak on camera.
Pakistani authorities have said 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.
Pakistani forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition troops based in Afghanistan, have long battled militants along the wild frontier between the two countries. Osama bin Laden and other top terror figures are believed to have sought refuge in the lawless, tribal area used as a launching ground for attacks in Afghanistan and beyond.