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Czech president asks Pakistan's Zadari for help on missing women

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

New Czech President Milos Zeman on Monday appealed to his Pakistani counterpart for help in locating two Czech women abducted last week in the restive southwestern province of Baluchistan.

Sworn into office last week, Zeman on Monday "wrote a personal letter to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari", presidential spokeswoman Hana Burianova told reporters.

Pakistani security forces have so far been unable to locate the two women who were taken at gunpoint last Wednesday, around 550 kilometres (350 miles) west of Quetta, the main town of Baluchistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran. So far no one has demanded a ransom.

Identified as Hana Humpalova and Antonie Chrastecka, both psychology students, the women had apparently crossed into Pakistan from Iran on holiday.

A Pakistani policeman who was escorting the women was reportedly also kidnapped with them, but later released.

"The Pakistani side has been very active. Their interior ministry has created a crisis unit," Czech foreign ministry spokeswoman Johana Grohova said Monday.

Kidnappings plague parts of Baluchistan and northwest Pakistan, where criminals looking for ransoms snatch foreigners and locals, sometimes passing their hostages on to Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked groups.

A Swiss couple, also apparently on holiday, were held captive by the Pakistani Taliban for more than eight months after being abducted in 2011 in Baluchistan. They were found safely in March 2012 in circumstances that remain unclear.

The following month, British Red Cross worker Khalil Dale, 60, was found dead nearly four months after he was abducted on the outskirts of Quetta.

Baluchistan is in the grip of a nine-year separatist uprising by nationalists demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the province's wealth of natural oil, gas and mineral resources.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130318/czech-president-asks-pakistans-zadari-help-missing-women