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Militants kidnap six young footballers


Militants kidnap six young footballers


A search operation is underway in Pakistan’s southwest region, as security forces seek to locate six young footballers who were kidnapped by regional separatists over the weekend, according to a minister.

The footballers, aged between 17 and 20, were abducted on Saturday in the town of Sui, Balochistan province, while they were en route to a tournament. Zakir Hussain, the father of 20-year-old player Aamir Hussain, expressed his deep concern, saying, “Our family is profoundly shaken.

“We have not received any communication from him since he was kidnapped and the abductors have not made contact with us,” he added.

“While he is an exceptional footballer, he is also innocent. Playing football is not a crime.”

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Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti said in a statement late Sunday “the entire area has been cordoned off” and “all available resources are being utilised for the recovery of the hostages”.

He alleged the abductors belonged to the Baloch Republican Army, a militant group fighting for greater autonomy of Balochistan.

“This is a very serious thing that our six kids are in the custody of terrorists,” he said.

Eyewitnesses and relatives said the youngsters were in a 16-strong squad of footballers whose vehicle was stopped at gunpoint, before certain players were identified and abducted.

One security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP there were reports the players were related to separatists who had recently surrendered to security forces.

Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest and least populous province, rich in natural resources but poor by all other measures.

Baloch people have long complained they do not get a fair share of the province’s profits, giving rise to more than a dozen separatist groups.

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