Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Suspected militants associated with Taliban Commander Baitullah Mehsud kidnapped five Christians in South Waziristan, on Pakistan’s southern border with Afghanistan. The authorities confirmed the episode today. The victims were on route from Wana to Dera Ismail Khan when armed militants stopped their vehicle. They were identified as Altaf Masih, Babar Masih and Emmanuel while names of two other Christians could not be ascertained. The militants made the release of Christians conditional with the freeing of six prominent tribal militants now in custody of law-enforcement agencies. One of them, identified as Commander Raees Khan Mahsud. According to the daily paper The News, The other five were said to be very important militant commanders of Baitullah Mahsud. The Taliban commander is the same militant leader who was accused by the Musharraf government for assassinating Pakistan’s former Prime Minister and head of Pakistan Peoples Party on December 27, in events still to be clarified.
Peter Jacob, executive secretary of Catholic Church’s human rights body, National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) condemned the kidnapping, but added “it is premature now to say what is the real purpose behind this kidnapping” of the 5 Christians. Speaking to AsiaNews he refers that according to recent Ncjp surveys which show that in the North Western Province and tribal areas, there is a threat to religious freedom and Christians face death threats from some of smaller militant groups.
“But at this time – he warns - the kidnapping of five Christians in that area may be an attempt to divert the attention of people as government had already accused them for killing Ms Bhutto”.