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Elders Fail to Secure Hostages' Release

Efforts to secure the release of two Chinese engineers were hampered once again on Wednesday as leaders of the abductors refused to meet tribal elders of the jirga (traditional council) for a second time.

Pakistan's Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed confirmed the reports whilst correspondents in Wana, South Waziristan, say that elders of the Mehsud tribe will again meet on Thursday, to be attended by senior government officials.

Tribal elders have sought permission from the government for 'Lashkar Kashi' (armed tribal action) against the captors but say they could not guarantee the safety of the hostages if it became necessary.

Members of the negotiating committee met Asmatullah Khan Gandapur, a political agent of South Waziristan, on Wednesday and informed him of the kidnappers' demands, which include a halt to an operation launched by the Pakistani army in March this year to flush out foreign militants from the area.

The Mehsud tribe is under tremendous pressure from the government to gain the hostages' immediate and unconditional release and they fear a strong reaction if they fail to do so.

Meanwhile Pakistan's Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid, condemned the kidnapping and expressed the federal cabinet's solidarity with China. He reaffirmed Pakistan's resolve to secure the release of the engineers and stressed that their safety was their primary concern.

Wang Ende and Wang Peng were working for China National Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Group Corporation when they, along with their Pakistani guard and driver, were abducted by five gunmen near Jandala in Pakistan's South Waziristan on Saturday.

(Xinhua News Agency October 14, 2004)

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