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Baluch Group Says Holds American Hostage In Pakistan

A police officer inspects the site where John Solecki was kidnapped in Quetta.
QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) -- An unknown separatist group has claimed responsibility for abducting an American working for the UN refugee agency in southwest Pakistan, a local news agency reported.

John Solecki, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in the southwestern city of Quetta was snatched on February 2, after gunmen ambushed his car and shot dead his driver.

A spokesman for a group called the Baluchistan Liberation United Front told the Online news agency they had kidnapped the man to make the United Nations pay attention to the "plight" of the Baluchi people.

"We have three demands, and if our demands are not met, then John Solecki will lose his life," a spokesman, identifying himself as Shahak Baluch, told the agency.

"We want the United Nations to secure the release of 141 women in Pakistani torture cells, provide information about more than 6,000 missing persons, and resolve the issue of Baluch independence under the Geneva Convention."

The group has not been heard of before, and the name is confusingly similar to the well-known Baluchistan Liberation Front.

Separatist militants have fought a low-scale insurgency for decades in Baluchistan, the largest but most thinly populated of Pakistan's four provinces.

The separatists want greater political and economic rights for ethnic Baluch, who believe the rest of Pakistan is exploiting their mineral and oil and natural-gas resources.