British journalist held in Pakistan released: embassy

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A British journalist held captive by extremists in Pakistan's militant-hit northwest has been released, the British embassy confirmed Thursday.

Journalist Asad Qureshi went missing in March while travelling to North Waziristan -- a hotbed of Islamist militancy -- with a retired army officer and a prominent Pakistani ex-spy who was killed by their captors.

"We can confirm Asad Qureshi has been released and our consular team are providing him with consular assistance," said George Shrriff, a spokesman for the British High Commission in Islamabad, giving no further details.

The fate of the third captive, retired military officer Ameer Sultan, known as "Colonel Imam", could not be confirmed.

A previously unknown group calling themselves Asian Tigers earlier claimed to have kidnapped the group and sent a video of one of their captives, former spy Khalid Khawaja, to the media, before apparently killing him.

An email purportedly sent by the faction said they killed Khawaja because the government did not accept the conditions they had set for his release.

Khawaja, a former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officer and reported associate of Osama bin Laden, was found dead in April with a note accusing him of spying for the United States, according to security officials.

His body was dumped in Mir Ali town in North Waziristan, part of Pakistan's tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

Khawaja headed a local human rights group and campaigned on behalf of missing people allegedly detained by Pakistan's intelligence agencies in the fight against Islamist militants.

Under former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, Khawaja was arrested several times and once charged with possession of banned literature, propagating militancy and inciting hatred against the government.

Khawaja reportedly met bin Laden in Afghanistan and reputedly claimed close ties to the Al-Qaeda mastermind, the United States' most wanted man.

© 2010 AFP

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