By Ishtiaq Mahsud
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) — A militant video released Sunday purported to show a Chinese tourist kidnapped by Taliban-allied fighters in Pakistan a year ago asking for his government to help him be released.
A militant known to belong to a Taliban splinter group called Jaish al-Hadeed, or the “Contingent of Steel,’’ gave the video to The Associated Press. While it could not be independently verified by the AP, the man in the video resembled other known photographs of Hong Xudong, kidnapped in May 2014.
In the video, the man identified as Hong asks for the Chinese government to honor his kidnappers’ ransom demands, without ever stating them. Chinese officials and state media did not immediately comment on the video. Officials at the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad could not be reached for comment.
Hong went missing after entering Pakistan from neighboring India in April 2014. He was abducted May 19 in the town of Daraban on the outskirts of the Dera Ismail Khan district, which borders Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions, a haven for militants. Police only found his passport, bicycle and belongings.
Following Hong’s abduction, the commander of a Taliban splinter group called Shehryar Mehsud, Abdullah Bahar, claimed responsibility for the abduction. Bahar later was killed by a suspected U.S. drone strike. It’s unclear what relationship Shehryar Mehsud has with Jaish al-Hadeed, though Taliban splinter groups frequently cooperate with each other.
The Pakistani Taliban have been waging war to install their own harsh brand of Shariah law, killing thousands of Pakistanis. Militants groups have abducted foreigners and locals to generate money for arms and equipment.
The Pakistani army launched a massive operation in the tribal regions in June last year to eliminate militant groups. The operation was intensified in December after a Taliban attack on an army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar killed 150 people, most of them children. (end)