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Pakistan accused of hundreds of terror abductions

Reuters / Jeremy Lovell | September 28 2006

Pakistan has abducted hundreds of people as part of the U.S-led war on terror, often secretly holding them for months while they are interrogated, the human rights group Amnesty International said on Friday.

Some suspects were held in Pakistani interrogation centers, but many were handed over to U.S. custody and held in Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Airbase or other secret detention facilities, the group said in a report on "enforced disappearances in the war on terror".

In many cases, U.S. agents paid a bounty of $5,000 to those, usually intelligence agents, who simply declared people terrorists, seized them and handed them over for interrogation with no legal process, Amnesty said.

"Enforced disappearances were almost unheard of in Pakistan before the start of the U.S-led war on terror -- now they are a growing phenomenon, spreading beyond terror suspects," Amnesty researcher Angelika Pathak said.

"The Pakistani government must set up a central register of detainees and publish regular lists of all recognized places of detention so that in future nobody can be secretly imprisoned and face the risks of torture," she added.

The rights group said the clandestine nature of the war on terror made it impossible to know exactly how many people had been forcibly 'disappeared' and tortured or illegally executed, but the number must run into hundreds.

It cited Pakistani military spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan as saying in June this year that 500 terrorists had been killed and more than 1,000 arrested since 2001.

In one example, Amnesty said sisters Arifa and Saba Baloch and Arifa's mother-in-law Gul Hamdana were arrested in Swat in June 2005, but all state agents denied any knowledge of them.

Hamdana was freed at a bus stop in Peshawar three months later but was too scared to talk about her experiences, and the two sisters were released in January 2006. No charges were laid.

Amnesty said there had been reports that U.S. personnel had taken part in some of the arrests and had either been present at or had even taken part in the torture of some of the suspects.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is in Britain as part of a tour to promote his memoirs "In the Line of Fire". He is due to give a speech in Oxford later on Friday.

His tour became controversial when he said in a U.S. television interview that a senior U.S. official had threatened to bomb his country back to the Stone Age unless he cooperated fully in the war on terror launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. targets.

A leaked report from a group associated with Britain's Defense Ministry alleged earlier in the week that Pakistan's intelligence service ISI was indirectly supporting the Taliban rebels in Afghanistan and said Musharraf should resign.

The Ministry of Defense distanced itself from the report.


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