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Kidnapped American UN Official Freed In Pakistan

John Solecki was kidnapped earlier this year

John Solecki was kidnapped earlier this year

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) -- An American UN refugee official kidnapped in Pakistan in February has been released, police and the United Nations said on April 4.

John Solecki, 49, head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Baluchistan province, was kidnapped in the provincial capital, Quetta, on February 2 when gunmen ambushed his car and shot dead his driver.

"We have found him and he's being taken to Quetta," senior police official Asif Nawez Warriach said. "He's safe and sound."

A UN spokeswoman confirmed Solecki had been freed.

A previously unknown militant group, the Baluchistan Liberation United Front (BLUF), said it had kidnapped Solecki and had demanded the release of prisoners it said were being held by the government.

A man claiming to speak for the group telephoned a Pakistani news agency earlier on April 4 to say Solecki was being released on humanitarian grounds.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking during a visit to France, thanked Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai and other people who had worked for Solecki's release.

"I am very happy and at the same time I would like to share this moment with his family and his colleagues in the United Nations," he said.

Separatist militants have for decades fought a low-intensity insurgency in Baluchistan for control of the province's gas and other resources.

The BLUF had demanded the release of more than 1,000 prisoners it said were being held by the government.

It had also demanded resolution of the issue of Baluch independence under the Geneva Convention.