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American kidnapped from his house in Pakistan

Gunmen abduct the man, identified by the U.S. Embassy as Warren Weinstein, in Lahore, Pakistan. The kidnapping is a reminder of the risk Westerners face in a country dealing with Islamic militants.

August 14, 2011|By Alex Rodriguez and Nasir Khan, Los Angeles Times
  • Pakistani policemen stand guard outside the house of a U.S. national after armed men kidnapped him in Lahore.
Pakistani policemen stand guard outside the house of a U.S. national after… (Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images )

Reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan — Reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan

Gunmen kidnapped an American from his house in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Saturday, an attack that underscores the risk U.S. citizens and other foreigners face in a country that has been grappling with Islamic militants.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman identified the man as Warren Weinstein but would not give details about his background or the abduction.

The name matches the LinkedIn profile of a man who works as the Pakistan country director for J.E. Austin Associates, a consulting firm for development projects in Pakistan and a host of other countries. According to the company's website, the firm often works with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the American government's primary international aid organization.

Police in Lahore said six gunmen approached Weinstein's house in Model Town, an upscale Lahore neighborhood, early in the morning.

Three of the gunmen went to the main gate and offered Weinstein's guards sehri, a meal eaten before the day's fasting period starts during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, said a Lahore police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. The other three entered Weinstein's house from a back entrance, the official said.

The four security guards on duty at the house have been detained for questioning.

The police official said Weinstein may have been working on a development project in Pakistan's volatile tribal areas along the Afghan border, and was scheduled to leave for the U.S. on Monday. No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

According to the LinkedIn profile, Weinstein has been based in Lahore for seven years. The J.E. Austin Associates website lists Weinstein as an expert in international development for 25 years and proficient in six languages. His areas of expertise include governance, microfinance, small- and medium-sized business development and institutional development. Calls to J.E. Austin's headquarters in Arlington, Va., went unanswered.

Kidnappings in Pakistan are common, but most of the victims are Pakistani citizens. The abduction of foreigners from their homes is rare.

Criminal gangs frequently carry out kidnappings, as do the Pakistani Taliban and other Islamic militant groups, which use the ransom money to fund their activities.

The Pakistani Taliban has said it is holding a Swiss couple abducted July 1 while traveling through the rugged southwest province of Baluchistan. Taliban leaders have said they would release the couple if the U.S. freed Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman convicted of trying to kill FBI agents and U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan in 2008.

U.S. citizens are considered to be especially at risk in Pakistan, an intensely anti-American country where Islamic militants carry out suicide bomb attacks and other acts of terrorism against the Pakistani government and its security forces because of their alliance with Washington.

alex.rodriguez@latimes.com

Khan is a special correspondent.

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