Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Peshawar


Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tribal areas. Map from PBS' Frontline. Click to view.

Yet another foreign diplomat has been targeted in Pakistan's Taliban-infested Northwest Frontier Province. "Unknown gunmen" kidnapped Hashmatullah Atharzadeh, the commercial attaché for the Iranian consulate in Peshawar, the provincial capital.

Atharzadeh was captured and his driver was killed while traveling through Hayatabad, a neighborhood in southwestern Peshawar, and heading to the consulate. The kidnappers blocked the road, stopped the car, and killed the driver after he attempted to resist the kidnapping.

No group has responsibility for the attack, however the Taliban have been behind numerous kidnappings and assassination attempts against foreigners in Peshawar and neighboring Khyber over the past year. Just yesterday, a Taliban force killed an American aid worker and his driver in a so-called secure neighborhood in Peshawar. The fighters blocked the car and opened fire.

Abdul Khaliq Farahi, Afghanistan's consul general in Peshawar was kidnapped by the Taliban in Hayatabad in September. The Taliban tracked down his car and forced it to pull over. His driver was killed. Farahi was Afghanistan's ambassador-designate to Pakistan.

In late August, a Taliban strike team ambushed a car carrying Lynne Tracy, the US Consulate's principal officer, as she left her home in the same neighborhood in Peshawar. Tracy narrowly escaped the attack as her driver was able to dodge the roadblock put up by the Taliban fighters.

In February, the Taliban kidnapped Tariq Azizuddin, Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan, as h drove through Khyber. The Taliban demanded the release of Afghan Taliban commander Mansoor Dadullah in exchange for the ambassador. Azizuddin was eventually released in exchange for 55 Taliban operatives, including two men who were previously held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

The Taliban have been able to penetrate the security layers in the cases of the two US citizens. In all of the cases, the Taliban had intelligence on the movement of the foreigners, by either observing their movements or from inside information.

The government launched an operation to relieve the Taliban pressure on Peshawar last summer. The Taliban have claimed they intend to take control of the provincial capital.



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READER COMMENTS: "Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Peshawar"

Posted by Alex at November 13, 2008 4:31 PM ET:

No honor among thieves, I suppose.

Posted by Mark Pyruz at November 14, 2008 2:38 PM ET:

US and Iranian interest overlap in Afghanistan. Perhaps the new US administration can make something out of this, in dealing with the Taliban threat.

Posted by My2cents at November 15, 2008 2:33 AM ET:

Well:

it could be bandits, or

an intelligence operation to generate distrust between Iran and the Taliban, or

an operation to disguise a large cash donation as a ransom payment.

Just to increase the paranoya.