ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Chinese tourist held hostage for more than a year by the Taliban in Pakistan has been freed by the country’s security forces and intelligence agencies, authorities said.
China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency identified the hostage as Hong Xudong, who was abducted in May 2014 near the northwestern Pakistani city of Dera Ismail Khan. Hong, who is from central China’s Hubei province, had entered the country from India and had been travelling around Pakistan by bicycle.
Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced the rescue of a Chinese hostage late Sunday night, without naming Hong. Xinhua, citing a statement from the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad, said Hong was rescued Saturday and handed over to their diplomats on Sunday, without elaborating.
“Our intelligence agencies are proud of rescuing the captive,” Khan said. “Chinese authorities, whenever we meet, would always ask about the captive. Thank God now we have him.”
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The kidnapping was claimed by a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban. A video released in May showed a man identified as Hong asking the Chinese government to honor his kidnappers’ unspecified ransom demands.
The Pakistani Taliban have killed tens of thousands of people in Pakistan over the last decade. Security forces have been aggressively targeting militants since a Taliban attack on a military school in Peshawar killed 150 people, mostly children. Over 300 suspected members of different banned groups have been detained in recent days in central Pakistan, counterterrorism officer Shabana Saif said.
Meanwhile Monday, the army said soldiers killed six militants in the North Waziristan tribal region’s Shawal area, while a lieutenant colonel and a soldier also were killed.
Associated Press writer Asim Tanveer in Multan, Pakistan, contributed to this report.