November 14, 2008 / 12:45 PM / 10 years ago

Canada seeks release of kidnap victim in Pakistan

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada and Pakistan are working together to seek the release of a Canadian citizen who was kidnapped in Pakistan this week while working on a documentary, the Canadian government and a friend of the victim said on Friday.

A wounded Japanese journalist is carried into a hospital in Islamabad November 14, 2008.REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

“The government is aware of the kidnapping of a Canadian citizen and we’re engaged with Pakistani authorities to seek her safe and early release,” said Lisa Monette, a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Monette would not confirm the person’s identity but Pakistan’s English-language daily The News International reported the abduction on Tuesday of Canadian journalist Khadija Abdul Qahaar.

Wounded Afghan journalist Sami Yousafzai lies on a hospital bed in Peshawar November 14, 2008. REUTERS/Ali Imam

Qahaar, 52, from West Vancouver, British Columbia, had converted to Islam in 2003 and changed her name from Beverly Giesbrecht.

Efforts were being made in Pakistan to free Qahaar, although details of her abduction remained sketchy, said Glen Cooper, a friend of the woman in Canada.

She was seized at gunpoint along with her translator and guide while traveling in Pakistan’s northern tribal region to gather material for a documentary, according to The News International.

She was reported to have been in the Bannu district of northwest Pakistan, near Afghanistan.

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Qahaar, who has worked in magazines and web development, began publishing an Internet site after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. She was critical of U.S. policy in the Middle East and of military action against groups such as the Taliban.

“After (September 11) she suddenly went into a new area that basically shocked everybody. But that’s typical of Bev, she doesn’t do things half way,” Cooper said.

The website does not mention the kidnapping, but the last news she posted at the site was an “urgent plea” for funds to leave what she described as a full-scale war zone in Pakistan.

Cooper said Qahaar’s recent personal messages to friends in Canada indicate she was nervous about the situation.

The report of Qahaar’s kidnapping comes less than a week after another Canadian journalist, Canadian Broadcasting Corp reporter Mellissa Fung, was freed after 28 days in captivity in Afghanistan.

Reporting by Louise Egan, Allan Dowd; editing by Rob Wilson

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