LAHORE, Pakistan – Authorities do not know who abducted two Christian hospital employees in Karachi last week, but police sources said they suspected the kidnappers had links with banned terrorist organizations.
There is a strong possibility that Islamic extremists took the two workers of South Korea-based Good Samaritan Hospital, Issac Samson and Indrias Javaid, to Pakistan's tribal areas after kidnapping them on Thursday (March 1), the sources said.
"Such cases are on the rise, as banned Islamist groups and other criminal gangs are turning to kidnappings for ransom in order to survive and procure weapons and ammunition, but at the same time one cannot rule out the possibility of a targeted elimination of foreign and local NGO [Non-Governmental Organization] workers," a senior investigator for the Karachi police told Compass.
He said that most radical groups believed that Christian NGOs were involved in evangelizing "under the guise of charity" and have been targeted for that reason.
Samson and Javaid, along with a worker identified only as Austin and a driver identified only as Nasir, were headed to the Good Samaritan Hospital in Karachi's Orangi area when their hospital van was intercepted by four "fair-skinned" suspects in a car in the Islam Chowk neighborhood.
According to witnesses, the kidnappers asked the occupants of the van to identify whether they were Korean or not. The terrified aid workers informed them that they were Pakistanis, but the abductors dragged Samson and Javaid from the van and forced them to get into their car.
Nasir told police that the kidnappers, in a car that appeared to be jam-packed, said they would take the "pant-shirt guys" – those wearing Western clothing suggestive of office workers – and left the other two, who were wearing traditional Pakistani clothes.
Saul Ashraf, brother of the 42-year-old Javaid, said his abducted brother had two small daughters, 5 and 7. Associated with the hospital since 1992, Javaid has been working as its general manager.
"My brother never shared any security threat with us," Ashraf said. "This incident has shocked us. The police say that he might have been kidnapped for ransom, but we haven't received any demand for money so far."
He said that the Sindh Province government had assured them that steps were being taken to ensure the Christians' safe recovery, "but so far nothing concrete has come up."
"I request the kidnappers to let him go," Ashraf said. "My brother has two little daughters, and they should have mercy on them."
Younus Sadiq, father of the 26-year-old Samson, who worked for the finance department of the hospital, recalled how the young man left home for the hospital in the morning.
"We came to know through a news bulletin that he was kidnapped," Sadiq said.
He has been working for the charity hospital for the past three years. It is run and supported by South Korea-based Agape Medical Service since 1991. Six Koreans work at the hospital and reside in a nearby housing compound, all of them in the country temporarily.
A Korean worker who requested anonymity told Compass that the foreigners did not venture out unnecessarily. Another Korean worker said the hospital staff is Christian, but that 99 percent of its patients are Muslims.
"I don't know what irked the kidnappers," the worker said.
Three months ago, unidentified men fired on a Korean doctor in Karachi's Banaras area. According to the staffers, he is currently undergoing treatment in his home country.
Police are conducting interrogations in their search for leads on the kidnappers' identities.
Sabir Khan, station house officer of the Pakistan Bazar police station, told Compass that two witnesses said the kidnappers had first asked about the Christians' nationalities and then took away the two men.
"We cannot say that they were Taliban or members of any other banned Islamist organization," Khan said. "We are investigating the incident from all angles and will soon be able to trace the kidnappers."
He added that police were questioning people with possible links to the kidnappers, and "good news can be expected anytime soon."