Two Belgian tourists missing in Iran
13 August 2007 , TEHRAN (AFP) - Two Belgian tourists have gone missing in Iran after travelling on a road in the southeast of the country notorious for attacks by bandits, officials said on Monday.
13 August 2007
TEHRAN (AFP) - Two Belgian tourists have gone missing in Iran after travelling on a road in the southeast of the country notorious for attacks by bandits, officials said on Monday.
"Officials are now carrying out actions to recover the two tourists," Majid Etemadi, the governor of the town of Bam told the state-run IRNA news agency.
IRNA said the tourists disappeared on Saturday around the town of Fahraj, situated on the road between Bam and Zahedan, the capital of the restive Sistan-Baluchestan province which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The road, which leads to the Pakistan border, 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.
Etemadi said the pair were a married couple, aged 27 and 30, and were travelling in the region in a private car.
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 point between Iran and the subcontinent that is well off the beaten-track of normal tourist travel.
The most recent confirmed abductions were of three Turkish tourists who were kidnapped in the same region in January 2006 as they travelled between Zahedan and the Pakistan border. They were eventually released.
Two German cyclists and their Irish companion were kidnapped in December 2003 while travelling on the same road between Bam and Zahedan. After their release, they said their captors claimed to be "Taliban linked to Al-Qaeda."
"We advise against any travel east of the line running from Bam to (the coastal city of) Bandar Abbas," the British Foreign Office says on its travel advice website.
"This area, which mainly covers the south eastern province of Sistan Baluchistan province, is notorious for its banditry and is the main route for drug-traffickers from Afghanistan and Pakistan," it says.
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.
The province is home to a substantial community of Baluch who are mainly Sunni Muslim.
[Copyright AFP 2007]
Subject: Belgian news