Taleban release Chinese engineer in Pakistan
Taleban militants in north-western Pakistan have released a Chinese engineer held hostage for more than five months. The engineer, Long Xiaowei, along with a Chinese colleague in the August in the Dir region. A Pakistani guard and driver who had been captured with the two engineers were recovered at the same time. He arrived at China's embassy in Islamabad on Sunday and was in good health.
Government sources said that the government has released over a dozen Taliban prisoners, several of them from Waziristan, for securing the release of the Chinese telecommunications engineer, Long Xiaowei.
Long Xiaowei was freed on Saturday after 170-day captivity and shifted to Chinese Embassy in Islamabad. Militants loyal to Maulana Fazlullah had kidnapped him along with his colleague Zhuang Guo from Khal town of Lower Dir district on August 29. Both the captives attempted to escape on October 17, 2007, in which Zhuang succeeded to get away but Long got his leg fractured in the move.
The government functionaries have been tight-lipped about the deal between the militants and the government for the release of the engineer but The News has learnt that the government swapped Long Xiaowei for more than a dozen Taliban prisoners.
“Yes, a number of militants were freed to secure the release of the Chinese engineer,” an official, who has full knowledge of the deal, told The News. He, however, refused to give the exact figure of the prisoners released in exchange for the engineer.
“Efforts were intensified to secure his release before the president’s (Asif Ali Zardari) upcoming visit to China. It’s a gift to the people of China on the occasion of his visit and it is also expected that the president will take him (Long) along to China,” the source added.
However, another official ruled out the release of any Taliban by the government in exchange for the Chinese hostage. He said the government exercised pressure and made the Taliban to free the Chinese.
The government was under immense pressure for the release of the Chinese engineer after the beheading of a Polish geologist, Piotr Stanczak, by Darra Adamkhel Taliban militants. The already beleaguered government of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani was further troubled when the Polish government termed the video of his beheading authentic.
Also, pressure mounted on President Zardari when UN chief Ban Ki-moon asked him the day Long was released to take measures for the early and safe release of American UN official, John Solecki, kidnapped from Quetta. His captors have also threatened to kill him within 72 hours of his recently released video, if the government did not meet their demands.