Masked gunmen snatched the Red Cross health programme manager on Thursday as he returned to his home in the city of Quetta, where criminal gangs are known to sell hostages on to insurgent groups.
“Our initial findings suggest that Khalil has been abducted by criminals,” said Chief Capital Police Officer for Quetta, Ahsan Mehboob. Nine to ten people were arrested between Thursday evening and Friday and police have been raiding suspected hideouts based on information from the men in custody, he said.
Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan, a province riven by a separatist rebellion campaigning for greater autonomy, as well as violence and crime involving al-Qaeda and Taleban-linked groups. Both separatist insurgents and Islamist militants are known to pay criminal gangs in Pakistan to pass on hostages.
“So far we don’t have any clues that Dale has been handed over to the TTP [the Pakistani Taleban], but in the past such cases have happened. Criminals have kidnapped high class officials and then sold them to other groups,” Mehboob said.
Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the abduction and the police are still unsure about where the assailants might be holding the Scot, a British Muslim convert who is better known as Ken Dale in his home town of Dumfries.
The family of another Scottish kidnap victim, Linda Norgrove, who died in a failed rescue attempt by US forces in Afghanistan in 2010, offered their “every sympathy” to Dale’s family and friends.
Pakistani newspaper editor and security analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai said: “These kidnappings are increasingly common because of the poor security situation.”
Yusufzai said the fact that Dale was taken in Quetta suggests nationalist rebels may be responsible as Taleban groups tend to operate in outlying areas of the vast province of Baluchistan, near the borders with Pakistan’s northwest tribal areas.
Police say Dale’s kalashnikov-bearing assailants were driving a jeep and had their faces masked. A man in his mid-20s with his face uncovered forced the aid worker out of his vehicle and into the jeep at gunpoint.