ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistani commandos on Thursday stormed a house near the Afghan border where two Chinese engineers were being held hostage, rescuing one and killing all five kidnappers, officials said. The other hostage died of gunshot wounds.
Security forces attacked the building after shots were heard from inside, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said.
"This raised fears that the kidnappers had started violence against the Chinese," he told The Associated Press. "The security forces then stormed and killed all five kidnappers and freed the Chinese."
Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said hostage Wang Peng died and his body was being taken to Islamabad. Ahmed said the kidnappers shot him.
China's state-run Xinhua news agency said the surviving hostage, Wang Ende, was taken to the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad.
The Chinese government expressed "deep sorrow" over Wang Peng's death and condemned the abductions as a terrorist act.
"We are deeply shocked at what happened and we also feel deep sorrow," Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said in Beijing.
He said the Chinese government was asking Islamabad to "take effective measures to ensure the safety of Chinese people in Pakistan."
The two Chinese, who were working on a dam project, were snatched Saturday with their Pakistani driver and security guard. Both Pakistanis were freed unhurt.
The raid came hours after two rounds of talks between tribal elders and militant leader Abdullah Mehsud (search) collapsed. Mehsud was hiding in the mountains while five of his men held the hostages in a nearby village.
Influential tribal elders in the region said they would support the military if it used force to free the Chinese.
Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said his fighters attacked "only after Mehsud and his men refused to release" the Chinese.
He said the bodies of the hostage-takers were being sent to a military base to confirm their identities and nationalities. Two were believed to be foreigners, he said.
The kidnappers initially told the government they wanted to trade the hostages for foreign militants captured by the army during a recent military operation against Al Qaeda (search) fighters in South Waziristan (search).
Pakistan Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri went to the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad and expressed grief over the hostage's death. He said Pakistani security forces tried their best to rescue both engineers.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz promised to improve security for other Chinese working in the country.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said the government "strongly condemns this terrorist act of kidnapping Chinese citizens," according to a statement carried by Xinhua.
Zhang said China would "work side-by-side" with Pakistan to ensure the safety of other Chinese citizens in the country.
It was not immediately clear if the security forces would go after Mehsud in the mountains following Thursday's raid.
China, a longtime ally of Pakistan, is a main supplier of weapons to this Islamic nation. The engineers were among 70-80 Chinese working for a Chinese state-owned company at the Gomal Zam dam, a tribal region about 210 miles southwest of Islamabad.
Mehsud, 28, returned to Pakistan in March after about two years' detention at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Pakistan officials say he has forged ties with Al Qaeda since then.
It was unclear why U.S. authorities released Mehsud, who has used an artificial leg since he lost his own to a land mine while fighting for the Taliban (search). He became a rebel leader when he returned to South Waziristan and has opposed Pakistani forces hunting Al Qaeda fighters in the semiautonomous area.
Pakistan's military has staged a series of offensives this year targeting Al Qaeda fighters in the region and claims to have broken up several terrorist hideouts and training camps. The fighting has killed dozens of militants, soldiers and civilians.