American citizen kidnapped in Lahore
LAHORE: An elderly American working in Pakistan for a foreign consultancy was kidnapped by a group of armed people, suspected to be ‘militants’, from his office-cum-residence in J-Block of Model Town early on Saturday, police said.
The motive for the kidnap remains a mystery for law-enforcement officials as neither any individual nor ‘militant’ organisation claimed responsibility or even contacted anyone the whole day.
The suspects broke into the premises during Sehri after scaling boundary walls, overpowered four private security guards, thrashed them and later took away Mr Warren Weinstein at gunpoint.
Model Town police responded to an emergency call and took the security guards into custody. Soon after the incident, top police officials also reached the scene of the crime. All entry and exit points of the city were sealed and a manhunt for the American was launched.
Police alerted police of other districts and the National Highways and Motorway Police for active vigilance and checking of vehicles.
Police investigation showed that Mr Weinstein, who has been the country-head for J E Austen Associates (works for Economic Growth and Private Sector Development and also associated with USAID’s projects) from 2005, was about to leave for USA after August 15 after his operations wounded up in Pakistan.
The company, which operated different projects in Islamabad, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtun Khawa, was in the process of finalizing a project of sports goods in association with the Ministry of Industries and SMEDA, in Sialkot.
Mr Weinstein, who is in 60s and belongs to Marry Land State of USA, had arrived Pakistan on August 11 after visiting Cameron (Africa) few days.
Model Town SP Operations Malik Muhammad Awais told Dawn that a group of around 10 armed gunmen reached the house cum head-office of Mr Weinstein around 3:30am, three of them rang the door bell and asked the guards to collect Sehri.
As one of the security guards opened the door, the three suspects entered the house and held the guards hostage at gunpoint. Around a half dozen suspects entered the house by scaling the second gate of the house.
After overpowering the guards, the gunmen went upstairs, held Mr Weinstein, who had been living alone, hostage at gunpoint and also injured him with the butt of gun. The suspects then bundled the victim into a vehicle and sped away. They also looted two cell phones from the guards.
A front door neighbour, who wished not to be named, told Dawn that Mr Weinstein had set up his office at the ground portion and lived alone in the upper portion of the house.
He claimed after Mr Weinstein completed his assignments his Pakistani staff discontinued visiting the office few days ago. He said the office was usually visited by Pakistani staff and some foreigners who had acquaintance with the American.
He said the office had been working for the last five years or so and nothing unusual happed earlier, adding he did not even heard any voices about the incident. He said the neighbours came to know about the incident in the morning.
A company employee, however, said the company was still operational in Pakistan and was in the process of finalization of few projects. He said it was not clear as to when Mr Warren had to travel back to USA after the completion of his projects.
A police investigator, who visited the scene and quizzed the people concerned, told this reporter that the suspects left the victim’s cell phone on the spot.
He said the security lapse was detected in the incident when all four security guards were busy in taking Sehar by leaving their positions.
Meanwhile, police registered a case under Sections 365 (Kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person), 342 (Punishment for wrongful confinement) and 395 (Punishment for dacoity) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
DIG Investigation Ali Aamir Malik said he had constituted two teams led by the CIA SP and the Model Town SP Investigation to trace the case, adding police investigation was at very early stage. He said interrogation was in progress with the security guards taken into custody.
Country Information Officer at US Embassy Islamabad Alberto Rodriguez, when contacted, said: “We are working with the Pakistani authorities over the kidnap of Mr Warren Weinstein. Police have just started the course of investigation as the incident of abduction hardly occurred 12 hours ago.”