Kidnappers of a British journalist held in Pakistan's remote tribal region have demanded authorities release scores of Islamic militants in exchange for the hostage.
Asad Qureshi, together with alleged former Pakistani intelligence officials Sultan Amir Tarar and Khaled Khwaja, were abducted March 26 in the volatile North Waziristan district close to Afghanistan.
Sources close to the militants said they have sent a list of at least 160 militants to Pakistani authorities, demanding their freedom be swapped for Qureshi's and Tarar's.
The Asian Tigers, a previously unknown group that claimed responsibility for abducting the three men, reportedly killed Khwaja April 30.
Sources said those on the list included leaders of
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, a shadowy militant organisation, and Taliban members hailing from the eastern province of Punjab.
The demand is in addition to a ransom of $10 million sought by the captors, for which Qureshi made an appeal in a video obtained by the Rome-based news agency Adnkronos International AKI.
Speaking in the video, the British citizen of Pakistani origin said the group set Saturday as the deadline for payment of the ransom.
Sources also said the two hostages were temporarily handed over to the Haqqani group in North Waziristan, which is trying to arrange a deal for their release.
The Haqqani faction is one of the oldest militant groups in North Waziristan and uses the district to launch crossborder attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan.
The new developments run contrary to reports last week that Qureshi and Tarar had been set free under the influence of the Afghan Taliban.
Analysts said they believe that the new demands by the militants seeking the release of their comrades would make it harder to reach an understanding between the kidnappers and authorities.