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Mystery grows over whereabouts of Pakistan Swedes

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08:15 CEST+02:00
The Swedish embassy in Islamabad has denied that 19-year-old Safia Benaouda and her two-year-old son have been released by the Pakistani authorities, as reports continue to circulate indicating their imminent return to Sweden.

Several reports in the Swedish media, including The Local, on Friday stated that Benaouda, daughter of the head of the Muslim Council of Sweden, had been released after four weeks in an Islamabad prison.

But neither the Swedish embassy in Islamabad nor the foreign ministry in Stockholm have been able to gain confirmation from the Pakistani authorities that the release had taken place.

"I know that rumours have been circulating, yes, but they are not true," Jörgen Persson at the Swedish embassy in Islamabad told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper when asked if Benaouda and her son were in the care of the embassy.

But the source of the reports, Naveed Siddique, a Pakistani journalist working for GEO News, continued to state on Saturday that his sources within the Pakistan interior ministry confirm that the release had taken place and that the Swedish woman and her child had been handed over to the embassy.

"I have received confirmation that the woman and child have been handed over," Siddique told DN adding that the embassy may be withholding information until they have been successful repatriated to Sweden.

The foreign ministry in Stockholm also denied reports that a further Swede, a 28-year-old man, had been arrested in connection with the terror probe.

"This is something that we have also heard and which we are in the process of investigating, but we have not had any confirmation of it," Karin Nylund at the foreign ministry said to news agency TT on Saturday afternoon.

Benaouda was in a group of 12 foreigners including Mehdi Ghezali - the Swede who spent two years in the US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay before being released in 2004 - and her partner Munir Awad, detained at Dera Ghazi Khan, on the border between Pakistan's central Punjab and North West Frontier Province on August 28th.

The Pakistani police have held them in detention while investigating possible links to Al-Qaeda.

The group claim to have to been Muslim preachers going to teach in South Waziristan, which is known as a centre of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militant activity.

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