Pakistani forces launched an operation Thursday in an attempt to free the two Chinese engineers held hostage in its northwestern tribal belt, resulting in one of them being killed.
The surviving hostage, Wang Ende, was seen by Xinhua stepping down apparently unhurt from an aircraft that reached Chakalala military base on Thursday and the Chinese embassy in Islamabad has confirmed that he is safe and well.
The 49-year-old, a native of north China’s Hebei Province, had been working in Pakistan for three separate periods. He told Xinhua that he has now spoken to "everyone" at home on the phone, a huge relief to his family who have been on tenterhooks since his capture on Saturday.
While talking to Xinhua, Wang Ende expressed his gratitude to the Chinese embassy for its efforts to secure his release, and to the people and government of China for their concern over his safety.
The body of Wang Peng, his fellow abductee, was sent to a military hospital in Rawalpindi later on Thursday, said the embassy. The 32-year-old, also from Hebei, had just got married before leaving to work in Pakistan in August 2002 and his wife was on holiday in Pakistan at the time of his kidnap.
The other two hostages, both Pakistani, had been released prior to the raid, said a press release from the military's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). It also confirmed that all five abductors were killed in the 15-minute operation that had started around noon local time.
Tribal elders and political and religious leaders had all worked hard for the safe release of the hostages, as had relatives of Abdullah Mahsud, thought to be the mastermind behind the kidnapping. The ISPR added that as all peaceful attempts had failed, security forces were obliged to use other means.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri called the Chinese Ambassador Zhang Chunxiang Thursday afternoon to express his regret about Wang Peng’s death.
Zhang said he appreciated the efforts that had been made by the Pakistani agencies and called for the two sides to handle the aftermath of the tragedy jointly. He also urged the Kasuri to take all necessary measures to beef up protection for other Chinese expatriates there.
A working team sent by the Chinese government and headed by Chen Jian, assistant to the Minister of Commerce, will leave Beijing today for Pakistan to deal with affairs there. Foreign Ministry sources said they will convey the government’s condolences to Chinese personnel in Pakistan.
The ministry spokeswoman, Zhang Qiyue, also vehemently condemned the terrorist act shortly after being informed the operation by Pakistani forces. She said she mourned the death of Wang Peng and extended her sympathies to his family.
Pakistani officials say some 600 foreign militants are in hiding in its northwestern regions after fleeing Afghanistan following the US-led coalition's military operation there in 2001.
(Xinhua News Agency, China.org.cn October 15, 2004)