Taliban denies kidnapping Pakistani envoy
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's Taliban militants said on Wednesday they would not attack next week's general election and denied involvement in the disappearance of the country's ambassador to neighbouring Afghanistan.
Fears of violence ahead of the February 18 poll have risen since the assassination of opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, on December 27. More than 400 people have been killed in clashes between troops and militants and bomb attacks since the start of 2008.
"Our central leadership have decided that as we have nothing to do with the elections, therefore there would be no attacks from our people," Pakistan Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar told Reuters.
"Neither do we support the process of the election nor do we have any opposition to it and if any attack takes place before or on election day, our mujahid won't be involved in it," he said by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Omar is a spokesman for Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban and prime suspect for Bhutto's assassination, though Mehsud has denied any involvement.
The spokesman announced a unilateral Taliban ceasefire a week ago. Pakistan's military denied a truce had been agreed but there has been a lull in fighting since then.
The Pakistani Taliban also denied having anything to do with the disappearance of Tariq Azizuddin, Pakistan's ambassador in Kabul who went missing two days ago on his way to the Afghan capital from the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar.
"We have no links with it. We don't know anything about that," Omar said.
Pakistani security forces are searching the area and officials are reluctant to say if Azizuddin has been kidnapped, though Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the envoy had been taken hostage.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said it had no further information on the case and again denied media reports that the Taliban had demanded the release of captured Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Mansour Dadullah in exchange for the envoy.
The envoy was travelling through the Khyber tribal region and had been due to change cars at the frontier crossing but he never reached the border. His driver and bodyguard are also missing.
The historic Khyber Pass is the gateway on the main road to landlocked Afghanistan from northwestern Pakistan.
Khyber is notorious for smugglers and bandits, but unlike other parts of the tribal belt on the Afghan border has been relatively free of violence linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban, though militant activity has picked up in adjoining regions.
(Reporting by Kamran Haider; Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
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