US Citizen Kidnapped in Pakistan

Posted August 13th, 2011 at 9:35 am (UTC-5)
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Pakistani police say at least eight armed men kidnapped a U.S. citizen from his residence in the eastern city of Lahore early Saturday.

The U.S. Embassy has identified the American as Warren Weinstein, a man in his 60s serving as the director in Pakistan of a U.S.-based development consulting company, J.E. Austin Associates.

Police said they learned that Weinstein had finished his work in Pakistan and intended to leave the country by Monday. He had just returned to Lahore after traveling to the capital, Islamabad.

Weinstein's profile on the social networking site LinkedIn says he has lived in Lahore since 2004, leading development projects for the consulting company in cooperation with the U.S. aid agency and the Pakistani government.

J.E. Austin Associates says Weinstein has worked in international development for 25 years. He holds a doctorate degree in international law and economics, as well as a master's degree in international relations, according to the company's website, and he speaks six languages.

Pakistani police say the abductors convinced Weinstein's guards to open a gate just before dawn by offering to give them food. This type of generosity is common during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when people fast during daylight hours.

The kidnappers overpowered the guards and tied them up, then left with Weinstein, who police said was asleep at the time. Police would not speculated on who was responsible for the abduction, and no extremist group has issued a statement linking itself to the attack.

U.S. officials said they are cooperating with Pakistani authorities in the hunt for Weinstein. U.S. Senator John McCain, who is in Islamabad on a visit, has had meeting scheduled for Saturday with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and other senior members of the Islamabad government.

Kidnappings for ransom are fairly common in Pakistan, although foreigners are not usually targets. Pakistani Taliban militants say they kidnapped a Swiss couple earlier this year in the southwest of the country.

During the past few days the U.S. a new travel warning for Americans in Pakistan, with specific cautions about the presence in the country of al-Qaida, Taliban elements and indigenous militant sectarian groups. The State Department strongly urged U.S. citizens to take measures for their safety and security at all times, such as maintaining good “situational awareness,” avoiding crowds and keeping a low profile.

Anti-U.S. sentiments run high in Pakistan. Tensions have increased between Islamabad and Washington, during the last three months in particular, after U.S. commandos killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden on May 2 in a raid on the compound where he was hiding near Rawalpindi, Pakistan.