Pakistan Taliban say they have Swiss hostages

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Pakistan Taliban militants on Friday said they were holding a Swiss couple kidnapped a month ago while on holiday in the remote province of Baluchistan.

Wali-ur Rehman, deputy head of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), did not provide proof that the group had the pair but said they were in good health and demanded they be exchanged for a Pakistani scientist jailed in the US.

Olivier David Och, 31, and Daniela Widmer, 28, were abducted on July 1 while driving in Baluchistan, a sparsely-populated southwestern province bordering Iran and Afghanistan that attracts few tourists due to separatist violence and Taliban activity.

"The Swiss couple are with the TTP. They are at a very safe place," Wali-ur Rehman, deputy chief of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) told AFP by telephone.

"They are completely in good health, they are getting reasonable food and they have not fallen ill since they landed in our custody."

Rehman said the Taliban would release the couple if the US freed Aafia Siddiqui, a female scientist jailed in 2010 for the attempted murder of US government agents in Afghanistan.

"We call upon the Western world to put pressure on America for the release of Aafia Siddiqui," he said. "If America does not agree to her release then our shura (council) will take a decision about the Swiss hostages."

Other Taliban sources confirmed Rehman's claim and added that the hostages were now being held in the lawless border district of South Waziristan, a notorious haven for Taliban and Al-Qaeda bases.

Previous kidnappings in Pakistan have also been followed by a demand for Siddiqui's release, without effect. Rehman said the group had not issued a ransom demand.

© 2011 AFP

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