LAHORE, Pakistan — Pakistani police are still searching for an American who was kidnapped from his home in the eastern city of Lahore early Saturday morning, officials said.
Warren Weinstein, who is in his 60s, is a development expert for consulting company J.E. Austin Associates Inc. He was working on projects aimed at developing industries such as leather and sporting goods in nearby Sialkot, as well as increasing dairy and honey production in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions. He had been living in Lahore for at least six years.
At 3:25 in the morning eight to 10 armed men climbed over the side gate of Weinstein's combined house and office, said Shahzada Saleem, deputy superintendent police of Model Town, the area of Lahore from which Weinstein was taken.
The gates and walls are about six feet high. The men overpowered Weinstein's three guards as they prepared food for Ramadan, a month in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown. The gunmen tied the hands of the guards with a rope. They made the driver knock on Weinstein's bedroom door. He opened and the kidnappers took him.
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The kidnappers were carrying Kalashnikovs, rifles and handguns, said Niyat Haider, a spokesperson for the Lahore police.
At 4:30 a.m., the security agency that employed the guards called the Pakistani emergency number, Saleem said.
The guards that Weinstein hired to protect him had trained in the Special Services Group, an elite commando unit of the Pakistan army, according to the police. When asked why well-trained guards had simultaneously taken a break while being on duty, Saleem admitted that "it's a very strange case."
The driver and the three guards are now being investigated by Pakistan's Crime Investigation Agency. Two teams, one comprising members of the investigation unit and the other local police, together totaling eight men, are working to retrieve Weinstein, Saleem said.
A servant at a nearby house, who declined to be named, said he was preparing food when the kidnapping took place, but hadn't heard anything.
"It was completely quiet. I found out what happened when I saw the many cars standing outside the gate at around 8 a.m.," he said.
Police said that so far nobody had claimed responsibility for the abduction. Jamil Yusuf, a Pakistani expert in anti-kidnapping who dealt with the Daniel Pearl case in 2002, said that it's difficult to say who's behind it unless the kidnappers make a phone call with a demand.
"Once the call comes only then we would know who could be behind this abduction," he said.
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Militants in Pakistan occasionally abduct foreigners for varying reasons. Last July the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for abducting a Swiss couple kidnapped from Lorelai, a town close to the Afghan border in the restive province Balochistan. The group said it would release the couple in exchange for Aafia Siddiqa, a Pakistani woman serving a jail sentence in the United States for shooting at American soldiers in Afghanistan.
Last year militants kidnapped John Solecki, an American who headed the local U.N. refugee agency, near his house in Balochistan's capital Quetta. His kidnappers demanded the release of hundreds of prisoners being held in Pakistani jails.
A press release by J.E. Austin Associates Inc. highlighted Weinstein's contributions to poverty reduction and economic development in Pakistan. It made no further comments.
“Given the gravity of the situation in which a human life is at stake no further information can be made available at this time,” the statement read.