updated 2/7/2009 6:54:15 PM ET 2009-02-07T23:54:15

Pakistani militants said they killed a kidnapped Polish geologist on Saturday, heightening fears for several foreigners abducted in the dangerous borderlands near Afghanistan, including an American U.N. worker.

There was no official confirmation that the hostage, Piotr Stanczak, was dead. However, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Saturday that Warsaw had received "informal" word that the kidnappers had killed their victim.

A spokesman for Taliban militants operating around the town of Darra Adam Khel said Stanczak was "slaughtered" earlier in the day because the government had missed a deadline to release 26 prisoners.

The spokesman, who said he went by the single name Mohammad, said authorities had offered to free only four. He spoke to The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Armed men pulled Stanczak from his car on Sept. 28 after killing three Pakistanis traveling with him near the city of Attock, where Stanczak had been surveying oil and gas fields in the region.

It was among a series of carefully targeted shootings and kidnappings that illustrated the breakdown of law and order in Pakistan's northwest and the increased targeting of foreigners by militants.

The most recent abduction occurred Monday when gunmen seized an American U.N. worker in the border city of Quetta. It was unclear whether militants or criminals seeking a ransom were responsible.

Two diplomats — an Iranian and an Afghan — as well as a Chinese telecoms engineer are also being held by kidnappers and an American aid worker was fatally shot in the main northwestern city of Peshawar in November.

Speaking in Germany, Tusk said there was still hope for the Polish hostage because the government still has no absolute proof of his death.

"We hope that it's not true, but we are not optimistic this morning and we fear that unfortunately a tragedy may have unfolded," Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said. He did not identify the hostage by name.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said authorities were still "trying to ascertain the factual position."

Officials say Stanczak's kidnappers have also been demanding the withdrawal of Pakistani security forces from the northwest, where the army is embroiled in fierce fighting in several regions.

On Saturday, police said a bomb killed seven officers at a checkpoint in the town of Mianwali and rocket fire killed one person at an army base in Quetta. A day earlier, authorities said helicopter gunships killed 52 militants in two raids not far from Darra Adam Khel.

Also Saturday, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said the new U.S. special representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, would arrive in Islamabad on Monday and stay for four days.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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