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Pakistani Minister Links Captors of Chinese Engineers with Al-Qaeda

Pakistan Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao Sunday said that al-Qaeda has links with the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers, who were kidnapped in the country's tribal area on Saturday.

The Chinese engineers, along with a Pakistani guard, were abducted near Jandola in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal area, bordering Afghanistan, by five gunmen.

The Chinese hostages, Wang Ende and Wang Peng, were working on a water dam and a canal in the tribal area for China National Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Group Corporation.

"There is definitely a link between the captors and al-Qaeda. Two of the captors are foreigners and they may belong to Central Asia. There is information that two belong to Kandahar in Afghanistan," Sherpao told local Geo television.

He said two of the kidnappers have covered faces while the another two are Pakistanis.

"I am sure that the Chinese engineers, their guard and driver are safe and are in the control of a local tribe Jalal Khel tribe," he said adding that the kidnappers are also in the custody of the tribe.

He said a 21-member jirga or council is holding talks with the tribe. Member of the National Assembly from the tribal region Maulana Mirajuddin is also member of the jirga.

Sherpao said the captors have links with those who are the targets of an operation in the area of Mahsud tribe. He said that demands of the captors would be clear after the jirga end negotiations.

"The government will look into the demands whether or not they are acceptable," the minister said.

Pakistani army has been engaged in operation to flush out hundreds of Al-Qaeda linked militants from South Waziristan since last year.

(Xinhua News Agency October 11, 2004)

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