Police seal off Lahore after aid expert is abducted by gunmen from his house.
|This handout photograph released by Pakistan police shows a sketch of one of the suspects [EPA]|
Five days after Warren Weinstein, an American aid expert, was abducted at gunpoint from his residence in the Pakistani city of Lahore, police have released a sketch of a man suspected of being involved in the kidnapping.
A senior police official in Lahore, capital of the central Punjab province, told Reuters on condition of anonymity,
that police had developed the sketch based on the accounts of security guards and Weinstein’s driver, who had been detained for questioning.
“We have released the sketch of one of the suspects based on information received from the detained people,” a senior police official in Lahore said on Thursday.
Authorities, however, said they had not uncovered the motive behind the crime for which no group has claimed responsibility so far.
“Up until now, we are treating it as a simple kidnapping case. … We are confident we will recover him soon,” Rana Sanaullah, provincial law minister who also responsible for security affairs of the province, said.
‘Weinstein was spy’
Sanuallah implied that Weinstein was a spy.
“We suspect that he was involved in intelligence gathering because we offered him a police escort, deployed police at his house, but he resisted our attempts,” he said.
“It gives the impression that he did not want us to keep a check on his activities and that makes it suspicious.”
However, Weinstein’s friends in the aid community have strenuously denied rumours he was working for any intelligence agency. A US Embassy spokeswoman also denied the charges.
In a pre-dawn raid on Saturday, up to eight assailants broke into the house of Warren Weinstein, the country director for JE Austin Associates, and abducted him after overpowering security guards.
The raid raised worries among aid workers, diplomats and other foreigners working in Pakistan, which is battling violence orchestrated by extremists, and where anti-American sentiments run very high.
The police detained a number of people, including the security guards and Weinstein’s driver, for questioning after the kidnapping.
The American embassy in Pakistan has offered its forensic teams to help with investigations.
Police said the gunmen barged into house on the pretext of sharing a meal with the guards, a common practice during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which started early this month.
The victim, who is elderly, had been living in Pakistan for five to six years, according to police. He mostly lived in Islamabad but had been travelling to Lahore.
Relations between Pakistan and the United States have sharply deteriorated since January, when a CIA contractor killed two Pakistanis in Lahore.
It further worsened after US Navy SEALS killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a raid in northwestern Pakistan that Islamabad termed a breach of its sovereignty.
Pakistani Taliban, linked to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for kidnapping a Swiss couple in July in the volatile southwestern province of Baluchistan.
Eight Pakistani employees of a US-based aid organisation, American Refugee Committee, were kidnapped in Baluchistan province last month.
JE Austin & Associates, an Arlington, is a Virginia-based consulting firm and has been working on a development project in tribal areas where Pakistani troops have been battling anti-government fighters for years.