| Abdullah Mehsud speaks to the media in the Chagmalai area of Pakistan's South Waziristan region. (Reuters)
Chagmalai (Pakistan), Oct. 11 (Reuters): Islamic militants holding two Chinese engineers hostage in Pakistan threatened to kill one unless security forces ended a siege of their hideout, a tactic the interior minister said had echoes of Iraq.
Abdullah Mehsud, leader of the kidnappers holding the engineers in Pakistan's remote South Waziristan region, initially insisted that they and the hostages be allowed to join him in a nearby area by noon otherwise one of the Chinese would be killed. The deadline was subsequently extended by four hours.
'There is no change in the situation,' said a senior security official as the extended 1100 GMT deadline passed. 'Tribal elders are in contact with the militants.'
The kidnappers, with explosives strapped to their bodies, were holed up in a mud house surrounded by security forces and their tribal allies in the Chagmalai area of South Waziristan, about 330 km southwest of Islamabad. Tribal militiamen prevented journalists approaching the scene.
Interior minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said the kidnappers had threatened to blow themselves up along with the hostages unless their demands were met.
'They have mines strapped to their bodies. They also have grenades,' he said, adding that the kidnappers were demanding the freedom of two Uzbek al Qaida militants detained in the rugged tribal region.
Officials have also said the kidnappers were demanding an end to military operations in the semi-autonomous tribal region, where hundreds have been killed since March in battles between security forces and al Qaida-linked militants, including Chechens, Uzbeks and Arabs, protected by local tribesmen. Sherpao said the militants, two of whom appeared to be Arabs and two Pakistanis had learned from tactics employed in Iraq.
'Whatever is happening in Iraq, they are moving according to that,' he said.
Abdullah, who calls himself Commander Abdullah, is a former inmate of the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay freed with 25 others in March after the Pentagon said they were no longer a threat to the US and had no intelligence value.
He spoke to a group of reporters yesterday in Spinkai Raghzai, an area near Chagmalai, and said the Chinese would not be safe until they and the kidnappers reached him. 'Until they come to me, we cannot guarantee their safety,' he said.
The engineers abducted early on Saturday are Wang Ende and Wang Peng, who worked on Pakistan's Gomal Zam Dam project for China's state-run Sino Hydro Corp.