An already dicey diplomatic situation in Pakistan got worse on Saturday, when gunmen kidnapped an American development contractor on the government’s payroll who was working in Lahore.
Identified by the U.S. Embassy as Warren Weinstein, the victim was taken after men reportedly tricked his guards and then broke into his house, according to the Associated Press. U.S. State Department and local Pakistani officials are working together on the case. No one has yet claimed responsibility.
A friend of Weinstein, who asked not to be named, told The New York Times:
“He was a very experienced man and said he had worked in many countries in difficult circumstances.”
According to the Times, police say that at least 7 or 8 men broke into Weinstein’s home in the pre-dawn hours. His driver and security guards have been taken into custody for questioning.
Since Navy Seals infiltrated Osama Bin Laden’s compound and killed the al-Qaida leader in May, tensions between the two countries have been high, evidenced in part by an uptick in kidnappings and ransoming of foreign workers in Pakistan. Militant groups, who raise money with kidnapping, have also become more daring in their efforts.
"They've become very, very brazen," Zahid Elahi, managing director in Pakistan for Development Alternatives Inc., another U.S.-based contracting firm, told the AP. "We just need to get our heads together because it's only just happened."
Weinstein reportedly works for Virginia-based development contractor J.E. Austin Associates, has lived in the country for seven years and holds a Ph.D. in international law and economics. His company’s website indicated that Weinstein worked on strengthening competitiveness in Pakistani industries.