Thursday, 9 September 2010
Asad Qureshi, the British journalist kidnapped in March in North Waziristan, has been freed and reunited with his family in Islamabad, according to reports. Qureshi, who was working on a Channel 4 documentary, was taken prisoner along with two Pakistani former intelligence officers - one of whom was subsequently murdered by his captors - and a driver. There is no word on the fate of the driver or of Colonel Imam, a well-known former ISI officer who claims to have trained many of the leaders of the Afghan Taliban in guerrilla tactics.
The other ISI officer, Khalid Khwaja, was shot and dumped outside the town of Mir Ali on 28 April. Days before he had been shown in a videotape 'confessing' to being an American spy.
The group responsible for the kidnaps and killing called itself the Asian Tigers, but was in fact a splinter group from the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a notorious sectarian group that originated in the Punjab. They were also known as the Punjabi Taliban, even though their ranks included some discredited members of the Mahsud tribe from Waziristan.
Two weeks ago, the leader of the Asian Tigers, Usman Punjabi, was killed along with five of his followers in a shoot-out with rivals in a dispute over an Arab widow in the Dandy Darpakhel area of North Waziristan. It is likely that Qureshi's release is connected to this event, which effectively destroyed the Asian Tigers as an organisation.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, it has been reported that Japanese journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka, who had been held captive for five months, was freed on Monday after using his guard's new phone to send a Twitter message. Interesting to note that his captors were from Hezb-e-Islami, but pretended they were from the Taliban.
Update: On Friday it was reported that Qureshi's driver, Rustam Khan, has also been released by the kidnap gang that had been holding them and Col. Imam. Still no word on the fate of Col. Imam.