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Taliban claim beheading Pole

February 08, 2009


KOHAT, Feb 7: Taliban militants have beheaded a Polish geologist kidnapped in September after negotiations for a prisoner swap with the government failed, a Taliban spokesman told Dawn on Saturday.

The spokesman, who identified himself as Mohammed, said that Poitr Stancza was killed because authorities failed to free the militants before a deadline expired at midnight on Friday.

“We have killed the man and will hand over his body only after our demands are met,” the spokesman said, adding Stanza was executed in South Waziristan.

Stancza was kidnapped on Sept 28 while visiting one of his company’s sites in Attock. Gunmen shot dead his driver, bodyguard and translator before taking him hostage.

Taliban had earlier demanded release of 135 of their comrades, an end to the military operation in Darra Adamkhel and payment of compensation to the affectees of the military operation.

A senior security official in Peshawar said initial reports suggested that the Polish national had been executed by his captors, but added that forensic evidence was awaited to corroborate the Taliban’s claim.

The official said that the Taliban had conveyed their demand to the interior ministry about release of four activists of the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi outfit at around 10pm on Friday.

The four LJ activists Taliban wanted released in return for Mr Poitr are currently under detention at the Peshawar Central Prison, he said. Officials are split over whether the Pole had indeed been executed. The political administration in the tribal region refused to confirm the execution unless his body was recovered.

“For now what we know is that the Taliban have said they have executed the Pole. Some of our sources say that that is indeed the case while others say there is no confirmation. So unless we have the body or at least some forensic evidence, nothing could be said with certainty,” the official said.

The deadline to meet militants’ demands expired on Wednesday. Officials said that the interior ministry had tasked JUI-F’s former MNA, Maulana Shah Abdul Aziz, to negotiate with the Taliban for Mr Poitr’s release.

Iinterior secretary Kamal Shah and Shah Abdul Aziz held direct and indirect talks with the militants for the release of Poitr, but both were disappointed.

The former JUI-F parliamentarian told Dawn by telephone that he had been requested by the government to come to Islamabad to discuss the matter and work for further extension in the deadline.

“Initially, I refused but later talked to Taliban by telephone and persuaded them to delay Mr Poitr’s execution till Friday as the Taliban had earlier planned to kill him on Wednesday. But when I tried to call them late in the night on Friday, their cell phones were off,” the Maulana said.

He said he had handed over to the government a list of the men the Taliban wanted to be released in exchange for the Polish engineer’s freedom.

“I suggested to the government that there were many people on the list who were not so important and a few of them could be released for as a goodwill gesture. But it seemed that the government had made up its mind not to negotiate to save the life of the Polish engineer,” he claimed.

Taliban commander Tariq Afridi said the engineer was executed on Friday afternoon after the government refused to release any member of the banned

Lashkar-i-Jhangvi outfit.

Taliban sources said that Mr Poitr had been offered to call his family on telephone before his execution, but he had refused, pleading that his government was trying for his release.

In a video released by the Taliban to local television channels in September last, Peter had appealed to his countrymen to put pressure on the government for his early release.

AGENCIES ADD: Talking to journalists in Germany, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said his government had received “unofficial confirmation” that Piotr Stancza had been executed.

“We do not have a solid proof, but we have received unofficial confirmation that this tragedy indeed took place,” Tusk told reporters in Munich in comments broadcast live on Polish TV.

He was in the German city to attend the security conference.

’’We hope that it’s not true, but we are not optimistic this morning and we fear that unfortunately a tragedy may have unfolded,’’ Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said.