updated 2/8/2009 3:34:11 PM ET 2009-02-08T20:34:11

A graphic video delivered to The Associated Press on Sunday appeared to show the execution of a Polish engineer by Pakistani militants who had held him captive for more than four months.

Pakistan has seen a rash of kidnappings and attacks on foreigners in recent months, mostly blamed on al-Qaida and Taliban militants trying to destabilize the secular government and punish it for supporting the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan.

An American U.N. worker was abducted last week in the border town of Quetta in southwestern Pakistan. Police said Sunday they were investigating a purported separatist group's claim of responsibility.

The seven-minute execution video appears to show the Polish hostage, Piotr Stanczak, sitting on the floor flanked by two masked men. Off camera, a militant briefly engages him in conversation before three others behead him. One of the hooded men then addresses the camera, blaming Pakistan for the execution for not agreeing to their demands to release Taliban prisoners.

First killing of a Western hostage since 2002
If confirmed, Stanczak's death would appear to be the first killing of a Western hostage in Pakistan since U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl was beheaded in 2002.

The video was given to an Associated Press reporter in northwest Pakistan on a flash drive by an intermediary who said he obtained it from the Taliban. The AP has elected not to distribute images from the execution itself. It was unclear whether it was given to other media outlets.

Pakistan Interior Ministry spokesman Shahidullah Baig said the government had "heard about" the existence of the video and was investigating.

Piotr Adamkiewicz, a spokesman at the Polish embassy in Islamabad, said the mission had seen some images from the video. He said it appeared to show the Polish hostage being killed. "We are thinking that this is (Stanczak), but we have to wait to receive the full tape," he told The Associated Press.

A spokesman for the Taliban in northwest Pakistan said Saturday they killed Stanczak because the government missed a deadline to release 26 prisoners.

Armed men pulled Stanczak from his car on Sept. 28 after killing three Pakistanis traveling with him near the city of Attock in northwest Pakistan, a lawless region believed to be a possible hiding place for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders.

Stanczak was surveying oil and gas fields for Geofizyka Krakow, a Polish geophysics institute. The institute said on its Web site that it was carrying out surveying work in Pakistan on behalf of the Oil & Gas Development Company Limited, or OGDCL, a Pakistani oil corporation. It said it suspended its work after the abduction.

John Solecki, the American U.N. official, was seized Feb. 2 in Quetta in Baluchistan province as he traveled to work at the offices of the U.N. refugee agency there. His driver was shot to death.

Baluch campaign for independence
Quetta's chief investigator Wazir Khan Nasir said a previously unknown ethnic Baluch separatist group called the Baluchistan Liberation United Front telephoned a local journalist Saturday to claim responsibility. He did not say what the group's demands were.

"We are vigorously looking into the matter," Nasir told the AP.

Pakistan-based Online International News Network quoted a spokesman for the front as saying Solecki was kidnapped to highlight the Baluch campaign for independence. The group has demanded the release of 141 Baluch women allegedly detained by Pakistani authorities and that the U.N. "solve the issue of Baluchistan under the Geneva Convention," he said.

He said it was the front's first kidnapping but warned of others if the demands were not met.

The natural-gas-rich region is home to a decades long insurgency, but Westerners had never been targeted before. In previous years, Chinese technicians working on different projects were targeted in Baluchistan.

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


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