WORLDPOST
01/19/2012 01:16 pm ET | Updated Mar 20, 2012

Italian Kidnapped In Pakistan, Foreign Ministry Said

MULTAN, Pakistan, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Two Western foreign aid workers were kidnapped by gunmen in the central Pakistani city of Multan on Thursday, local officials said.

Multan City Police Officer Amir Zulfiqar said one of the foreigners who had been abducted was Italian while the other was believed to be German.

"Three armed men entered the house and kidnapped two foreign nationals," Zulfiqar told reporters outside the house where they were kidnapped.

"So far we have not established a motive but it is too early to say. We are continuing investigations to try to see what happened."

The Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that an Italian citizen was kidnapped in Multan, in the southern part of the Punjab province.

German embassy officials in Islamabad were not immediately available for comment.

Criminal gangs often target foreign aid workers in Pakistan in hope of securing large ransoms for their release. Pakistani officials say militant groups such as the Taliban are also involved in kidnappings.

Such incidents have put off long-term investors. Foreign direct investment fell 37 percent to $531.2 million in the second half of 2011 from $839.6 million in the final six months of 2010.

Gunmen kidnapped a British doctor, working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in the southwestern city of Quetta on Jan. 5.

American aid worker Warren Weinstein was kidnapped from the central Pakistani city of Lahore in August last year. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for Weinstein's abduction in December.

In July, a Swiss couple was kidnapped from the southwestern Baluchistan province by the Pakistani Taliban. (Reporting by Asim Tanveer in MULTAN, Qasim Nauman in ISLAMABAD and Silvia Aloisi in ROME; Writing by Serena Chaudhry; Editing by Louise Ireland)