John Solecki Freed!

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed his happiness at the safe release of a United Nations staff member who was abducted in Pakistan two months ago, voicing his appreciation for the efforts of Government officials and others in securing his release.

John Solecki, who heads the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Quetta, in Balochistan province, was abducted in an attack on 2 February that also left another colleague, Syed Hashim, dead.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, the Secretary-General said that he is “grateful to all those who have tried over the past two months to help secure John Solecki’s release, and would like in particular to express his appreciation for the strong message made by Balochi leaders in support of his release, as well as efforts made by the Government of Pakistan.”

Mr. Ban also reaffirmed the UN’s continued commitment to help all Pakistani people, a dedication manifested in Mr. Solecki’s own work.

Addressing reporters following a meeting with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Paris, he thanked President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, along with many others, for their tireless work in securing Mr. Solecki’s release.

But the Secretary-General noted that Robert Fowler, his Special Envoy for Niger, is still missing following his kidnapping last December.

“I sincerely hope that the captors, whoever they may be, should immediately, without any conditions, release him as soon as possible,” he said.

During Mr. Solecki’s captivity, the world body had expressed its concern on many occasions regarding his health, given that he suffers from multiple health conditions requiring ongoing treatment.

A group known as the Balochistan Liberation United Front claimed to be holding him, demanding the release of people it says are in Pakistani custody.

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