Kidnapped UNICEF workers freed in Pakistan: U.N.

UNITED NATIONS Mon Apr 21, 2014 1:51pm EDT

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Two U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) workers kidnapped in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi have been freed, the United Nations said on Monday.

The Pakistani men were on their way to a bus terminal to pick up relatives when they were taken on Thursday, police said.

"They were freed. We're very pleased," United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

UNICEF said the police had led the investigation and that the men were safe and well. No further details about the incident were given.

The port city of Karachi is Pakistan's financial heart and home to 18 million people. Many neighborhoods are considered Taliban strongholds, including the area of Shorab Goth, which is near where the men were taken.

In February, gunmen kidnapped three Pakistani men working for the U.N.'s World Health Organization in the northwestern town of Tank. They are still being held.

Pakistan is plagued by kidnapping gangs. Foreigners and wealthy Pakistanis are frequently targeted, and kidnappings are reported on a near daily basis.

Current hostages include an American aid worker, the son of a former prime minister, the son of a former provincial governor, and many professionals such as doctors and lawyers.

Militant groups such as the Taliban often use such kidnappings to raise money for their insurgency.

The Taliban have been fighting for years to overthrow the democratically elected government and impose strict Islamic law on the country of 180 million people.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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