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To: Pan_Yans Wife
Today: December 09, 2003 at 6:14:51 PST

Smugglers Seek $6M for 3 Tourists in Iran

Smugglers Seek $6M for 3 Tourists in Iran

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -

Drug smugglers have demanded $6 million in ransom for three tourists they kidnapped in southeastern Iran, officials said Tuesday.

The tourists - two Germans and one Irish - were abducted a day earlier while cycling from the historical city of Bam to Zahedan, the provincial capital, in a region known as a major drug-smuggling route.

The kidnappers were drug smugglers whose rackets had been hit hard by the security forces during the past year, the director general for security affairs in Sistan-Baluchistan province, Gholam Reza Javdan, told The Associated Press.

He said an anonymous caller claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and demanded $6 million to release the hostages.

Security forces have launched an extensive operation to catch the kidnappers and free the hostages, Javdan said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi criticized the tourists on Tuesday for not telling the local authorities of their travel plans.

"The incident happened when two German tourists and an Irish tourist were cycling in Sistan-Baluchistan province. They had not coordinated with the law enforcement beforehand," Kharrazi said on state television. He added foreigners "usually" told the police when they were about to enter such areas.

Javdan said police had confiscated over 40 tons of various narcotics from drug smugglers during the past eight months in Sistan-Baluchistan. He said the kidnapping was believed to be an attempt by the smugglers to recoup their financial losses.

"The kidnappers are just demanding money," he said.

In Dublin, an official of the Irish Foreign Affairs office confirmed it was investigating what had happened to an Irish national in Iran, but declined to give any details about the person or the incident.

In Berlin, the German Foreign Ministry said it was looking into reports that several foreigners, including Germans, had been abducted in Iran.

An advisory on the German Foreign Ministry's Web site, dated Monday, cautioned against overland travel from Iran to Pakistan and Afghanistan, particularly by bicycle or motorbike. "There is a considerable risk of kidnapping on journeys - particularly individual or trekking trips - to the provinces of Kerman and Sistan-Baluchistan," it said.

Kidnapping of Western tourists is rare in Iran, but Sistan-Baluchistan is known for large drug smuggling rackets which do occasionally resort to extortion. A few Western tourists were kidnapped in Iran in the late 1990s.
20 posted on 12/09/2003 12:02:54 PM PST by Pan_Yans Wife ("Your joy is your sorrow unmasked." --- GIBRAN)
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To: F14 Pilot
ping to 20
22 posted on 12/09/2003 2:38:43 PM PST by Pan_Yans Wife ("Your joy is your sorrow unmasked." --- GIBRAN)
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