No clue yet about missing Pakistani envoy to Afghanistan

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Islamabad, Feb 12 (UNI) Pakistani authorities have launched a search operation in the country's Kyber tribal region to secure safe release of Pakistani envoy Tariq Azizuddin, who went missing yesterday.

The search operation was launched amid media reports that local Taliban claimed responsibility of kidnapping.

Pakistan's private Geo TV today said the local Taliban demanded release of Mullah Mansoor Dadullah against release of Pakistani envoy.

Dadullah, a close associate of Taliban Supreme leader Mulla Omar was arrested after being seriously injured in an exchange of fire with Pakistani security forces from Chaman in southwestern Balochistan yesterday.

According to Bureau Chief of an Arab TV channel, local Taliban admitted that they had kidnapped Pakistani envey to Afghanistan, Tariq Azizuddin, and asked the tribal leaders of Khyber Agency to convey their message to Pakistani government that they are ready to free Tariq Azizuddin against the release of Mansoor Dadullah.

The ambassador, his bodyguard and the driver were kidnapped on their way to Kabul from Peshawar near the Ali Masjid area in Jamrud, one of the three districts of Khyber agency yesterday.

Foreign office spokesman Muhammad Sadiq also confirmed abduction of the diplomat and said efforts were being made to recover him.

The tribal authorities came to know about the incident when Mr Azizuddin's staff waiting for him on the other side of the Pakistan-Afghan border relayed a message, asking if the ambassador was coming.

Two Pakistani employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross were kidnapped by gunmen from the same area on February 2.

They were going to the border town of Torkham for customs clearance of their goods.

Officials in Khyber agency, one of the seven semi-autonomous tribal regions, each called an agency, said an operation has been launched in ''full swing'' to recover the ambassador. They were, however, unaware of any demand by local Taliban seeking a swap.

UNI XC SYU Mir BD1650

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