ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A Chinese tourist who was kidnapped in Pakistan by the Taliban more than a year ago has been freed, Pakistan’s interior minister said on Sunday.
“He was handed over to us late last night ... Today, after a while, maybe after one or one-and-a-half hours, we will hand him over to the Chinese embassy,” Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters.
The Chinese man, who had been cycling through Pakistan, was abducted last May near the western city of Dera Ismail Khan.
A senior Pakistani Taliban commander, Abdullah Bahar, told Reuters soon after the kidnapping that the man was in the Islamist militants’ custody.
Khan gave few details about the Chinese man’s recovery other than saying it was the result of an intelligence operation and the culmination of more than a year of effort by the Pakistani government.
Kidnappings are rising in Pakistan, although it is unusual for Chinese to be targeted. Gunmen earlier in 2014 shot dead six guards protecting a Spanish round-the-world cyclist in a remote area of western Pakistan. He escaped unhurt.
The Pakistani Taliban, who are seeking to set up an Islamic state in their own country, are separate from but allied to the Afghan Taliban insurgents who were driven from power in Kabul by a U.S.-led military intervention in 2001.
China is a key ally of Pakistan and in May launched a plan for energy and infrastructure investments there worth $46 billion.
The ambitious plan, which would eclipse U.S. spending in Pakistan over the last decade, aims to establish a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor between Pakistan’s southern Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea and China’s western Xinjiang region.
Reporting by Shahab Shahabuddin. Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Dominic Evans