UN official is kidnapped in Pakistan
American man's driver gunned down
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Gunmen in southern Pakistan kidnapped an American who is a United Nations official and fatally shot his driver yesterday, the latest in a recent series of high-profile kidnappings and targeted hits on foreigners, according to Pakistani police officials.
Pakistani police in the southern city of Quetta said an unknown number of gunmen ambushed the car of John Solecki, the chief of the UN refugee office in the province of Baluchistan, about 8:30 a.m., soon after he left home for his office. The car's driver, Hashim Raza, was killed almost instantly, said Khalid Masood, a senior police official in Quetta.
It was unclear early yesterday whether Solecki was wounded in the attack. Few details were immediately available about Solecki, but Pakistani authorities said he is an American citizen who has worked in Quetta for about two years at the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Amena Kamaal, a spokeswoman for the United Nations in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, confirmed that a foreign official who worked for the organization since early 2007 was abducted in Quetta yesterday. But Kamaal said she was unable to release further details about the official's background or the attack pending notification of the man's family.
Lou Fintor, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Islamabad, said the embassy was aware of the abduction but could not comment.
The kidnapping in Quetta, a city considered to be the seat of operations for top Al Qaeda and Taliban commanders, underscored concerns about the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon prepared this week to visit the country. Poor security, endemic poverty, and concerns about hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis displaced by recent violence in the country's North-West Frontier province and troubled tribal areas are expected to be at the top of Ban's agenda when he meets with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani on Thursday.
Attacks on foreigners and aid workers have increased in Pakistan within the past year, affecting several major humanitarian organizations, including the UN. In April, Taliban gunmen kidnapped and later released two local workers with the UN's World Food Program in northwest Pakistan.
Last fall, the UN ordered its foreign staff to send their families home amid heightened security concerns following the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.
Kamaal said the latest attack in Quetta again had raised alarms about working in Pakistan. But she said it was unlikely to result in a halt to UN operations.
"I don't think there's any question that our work will continue because it is badly needed, but there certainly is likely to be discussion about beefing up security," Kamaal said.