Four days after their disappearance from the Dir area of the restive North West Frontier Province, the Pakistani Taliban on Tuesday claimed that they were holding two Chinese telecom engineers as prisoners but did not specify any demand for their release.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Muslim Khan told reporters on phone that their armed cadres were holding the two Chinese men, along with their guard and driver.
"The Taliban's 'Shura' or council will decide the fate of the Chinese engineers," Khan said but did not specify any demands for their release.
Police said the two Chinese engineers from ZTE Corporation, China's largest telecommunications equipment provider, and two local employees of the firm were kidnapped in Dir district of NWFP on Friday. They had gone to the area to work on a mobile phone tower.
Meanwhile, police said they had formed three special teams and launched a major search operation to trace the engineers. Officials said the Chinese engineers had not informed local authorities in Dir about their visit to the area.
The Chinese embassy in Islamabad has confirmed that the two engineers and their two Pakistani colleagues are missing. The embassy is also in contact with the government over the issue.
China and Pakistan have a very close military and political ties. In fact, it was maltreatment of some Chinese nationals which had led to security crackdown in the capital's Lal Masjid in July last year.