Belgian tourists abducted in Iran

14th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

14 August 2007, TEHRAN (AFP) - Two Belgian tourists have been abducted by bandits in the southeast of Iran while driving on a road notorious for its attacks on travellers by armed criminals, officials said on Monday.

14 August 2007

TEHRAN (AFP) - Two Belgian tourists have been abducted by bandits in the southeast of Iran while driving on a road notorious for its attacks on travellers by armed criminals, officials said on Monday.

Local police said the young Belgian couple had been kidnapped on the road between the towns of Bam and Zahedan by a known bandit leader who has demanded the release of his brother from jail as the condition for their freedom.

They were taken in the town of Fahraj just outside Bam, known for its world famous ancient citadel which was severely damaged in the massive earthquake that hit the town in December 2003.

"Esmaeel Shahbakhsh, a bandit leader in the area, abducted the Belgian couple on Sunday near Fahraj, on the borders of the Kerman and Sistan Baluchestan provinces," Bam police commander Colonel Abbas Ebrahimi said.

"They have been taken to an unknown place. The kidnapper has guaranteed that if his brother is released from prison, he will release the two tourists," he said, according to the Fars news agency.

The road links Bam in Kerman province and Zahedan, the capital of the restive Sistan-Baluchestan province which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan. It then heads to the Pakistan border and onwards to the restive Pakistani city Quetta.
The road is considered highly dangerous because of the presence of armed bandits and drug traffickers. The area has been the scene of around a dozen abductions of foreigners over the past decade.

According to Fars, Gol-Mohammad Shahbakhsh, Esmaeel's brother, had been arrested by the police in a clash in the area near Zahedan.

The agency quoted a source as saying that the kidnappers had contacted the governorate general of Kerman province and demanded the release of Gol-Mohammad Shahbakhsh and other detained bandits.

Local officials said the pair were a married couple, aged 27 and 30, and were travelling in the region in a private car.

The Belgian foreign ministry said its embassy in Tehran was seeking to verify the reports of their disappearance.

Despite stringent warnings by their foreign ministries 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.

The Belgian foreign ministry, and its Tehran embassy, warns its nationals against travelling in the region due the poor security conditions and criminal gangs linked to drug-trafficking operating in the area.

[Copyright AFP 2007]

Subject: Belgian news

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