New Deadline for US Hostage in Pakistan

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) - A suspected separatist group holding an
American U.N. worker in Pakistan said Sunday it would kill him in four days if the government does not release more than 1,000 prisoners.

The threat on the life of John Solecki was made in a letter sent Sunday to local news agency Online International News Network that was also read by an Associated Press reporter.

U.N. spokeswoman Maki Shinohara said the world body was aware of
the threat through the media and "took it seriously."

Gunmen seized Solecki on Feb. 2 after shooting his driver to death as the pair drove to work in the southwestern city of Quetta in Baluchistan.

The previously unknown Baluchistan Liberation United Front claimed responsibility.

In the letter, the front demanded the release of 1,109 activists from Baluchistan nationalist groups it claimed had been arrested by the government.

"John Solecki's mother and his relatives and international human rights groups should play a role for the recovery of thousands of our sons ... who are in state-run torture detention cells," the one-page letter said.

"The United Nations and state institutions ... are forcing us to kill Mr. John Solecki in our protest," it said.

On Feb. 13, the group threatened to kill Solecki within three days unless similar demands were met. It did not carry out the threat.

Pakistani officials were not immediately available for comment.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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