One Belgian still held in Iran
15 August 2007, TEHRAN (AFP) - Bandits who abducted two Belgians travelling in a notoriously dangerous area in southeastern Iran have released the female captive but are still holding the man hostage, security forces said Wednesday. "The female tourist Carla was freed by her captors yesterday," local police captain Mohammad Javad Asna-Shahri told the state-run IRNA news agency.
15 August 2007
TEHRAN (AFP) - Bandits who abducted two Belgians travelling in a notoriously dangerous area in southeastern Iran have released the female captive but are still holding the man hostage, security forces said Wednesday.
"The female tourist Carla was freed by her captors yesterday," local police captain Mohammad Javad Asna-Shahri told the state-run IRNA news agency.
"Efforts are still being undertaken for the release of the other captive, her companion," he added.
Belgian tourists Stefaan Boeve and his partner Carla Van den Eeckhout were abducted by bandits on Sunday while driving on a road notorious for its attacks on travellers by armed criminals.
According to Belgian media, they made a brief telephone call on Tuesday afternoon to their parents to say that they were safe and well, without saying if they had been released.
Iran's judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi rejected reports that both had been freed already.
"Through some actions last night, the woman was released but not the man. The handling of the case is in the hands of the intelligence ministry and they are seeking to release the second captive," he told reporters.
Local police have said the kidnapper was a known bandit leader who have demanded the release of his brother from jail as the condition for their freedom.
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 pair 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.
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.
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 said the pair had been held in an isolated area, 150 kilometres southwest from where they were captured, without giving further details.
Iranian security forces are frequently involved in deadly shootouts in the region with drug-traffickers who use Iran to as a transit point to bring drugs from Afghanistan into Europe.
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