French tourist shot dead in Iran

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The murderer recently killed a member of the security forces and unfortunately had not been arrested

    TEHRAN, December 10, 2007 - A young French tourist has been shot dead by a
known criminal in the Iranian city of Isfahan, one of the country's main tourist draws, the Fars news agency reported on Monday.

   "Yesterday (Sunday) a French citizen was shot dead in Isfahan," said a statement by local police quoted by the news agency.

   "The murderer recently killed a member of the security forces and unfortunately had not been arrested," it added.

   An Iranian official, who asked not to be named, identified the victim as Julien Van Waesberghe and said he had died of his wounds from the shooting after being taken to hospital, Fars reported.

   The official said the incident took place around Isfahan bus station while the victim and his unidentified partner were waiting for a bus to the city of Yazd to the south.

   The French embassy confirmed the police statements and said that Van Waesberghe was 24.

   Most of Iran is generally considered safe for visiting, although embassies warn against travel to the border areas with Pakistan and Afghanistan where there have been kidnappings of foreigners.

   The city of Isfahan, in central Iran, is a former imperial capital which is home to a cluster of historically important palaces and mosques around the UNESCO-listed Naqsh-e Jahan Square, one of the largest in the world.

   The city is visited by thousands of foreign tourists each year and is not considered a risky destination.

   The police statement said the suspected murderer was a 27-year-old man from the southern city of Shiraz and was on the run after police arrested associates following an armed robbery.

   "The identity of the murderer is known to the police... the attack against the foreign citizen is part of the desperate actions of this fugitive thief."

   The killing comes as a Japanese tourist abducted by bandits in the southeast of Iran remains in captivity more than two months after his kidnapping.

   Satoshi Nakamura, 23, was kidnapped by bandits on October 8 as he headed
from his hotel for the ancient mud-built citadel of Bam in a region of
southeast Iran bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan.

   A bandit called Esmail Shahbakhsh, blamed for the kidnapping, is asking for the release of his arrested son in exchange for Nakamura, according to Iranian officials.

   The bandit is said to be the same man whose gang in August abducted two Belgian tourists who were later freed.

   The female Belgian tourist was freed shortly after her capture but it took a month to win the release of her male partner.


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