Belgian begins second week in captivity
20 August 2007, BRUSSELS (AFP) - A Belgian man began a second week in captivity in Iran Sunday, with "no new elements" in the quest for his release while his freed partner awaits news in Tehran, the Belgian foreign ministry said.
20 August 2007
BRUSSELS (AFP) - A Belgian man began a second week in captivity in Iran Sunday, with "no new elements" in the quest for his release while his freed partner awaits news in Tehran, the Belgian foreign ministry said.
Bandits seized Stefaan Boeve, 28, and his travelling companion Carla Van den Eeckhout, 37, in a notoriously dangerous area in southeastern Iran last Sunday.
Van den Eeckhout was released unharmed on Wednesday "for humanitarian reasons," according to Belgian officials.
She is "a person of very strong character," and was safe and well, and had not been ill-treated by her captors, a Belgian foreign ministry spokesman in Brussels told AFP.
She is now being looked after at the Belgian embassy in Tehran, helping authorities with their search and awaiting news of her partner.
"There are no new elements" in the case, he said. "The woman is still at the embassy in Tehran, the man is still being held by the kidnappers."
Their case was being followed at "a high level" by the Iranian authorities and "we are not giving out any other information," he added.
The news came amid fresh reports of hostage-taking in the area.
The official IRNA agency cited a local police chief as saying two people had been abducted, but the semi-official Fars and ISNA agencies said that 30 passengers were kidnapped when a bus was shot at on a road in the restive Sistan-Baluchestan province.
The abduction of the Belgian pair took place when the two were driving on a road notorious for its attacks by armed criminals and drug traffickers.
The road links Bam in Kerman province and Zahedan, capital of poverty-stricken Sistan-Baluchestan region heading to the Pakistan border.
According to the police commander in Bam the pair were kidnapped by the head of a bandit group who offered their release in exchange for his jailed brother's freedom.
Despite stringent warnings by their governments to avoid the area, foreign tourists are still known to use the road to cross from Iran into Pakistan, often using their own transport rather than bus services.
They appear attracted by the road's status as an almost mythical transit route between Iran and the subcontinent that is well off the beaten-track of normal tourist travel.
Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht said last week that the couple had travelled through Germany down through the Balkans to Greece and then Turkey and were on their way to India before being kidnapped in Iran.
Sistan-Baluchestan is also sometimes the scene of attacks by the Jundallah Sunni militant group, which was blamed from a deadly blast in Zahedan that killed 13 Iranian Revolutionary Guards earlier this year.
[Copyright AFP 2007]
Subject: Belgian news