ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Two Chinese engineers helping Pakistan build a dam in a tense tribal region were kidnapped early Saturday along with at least one Pakistani security guard, officials said.
The engineers were on their way to Tank, in the remote South Waziristan region where al-Qaida-linked militants are active, when five gunmen ambushed their two vehicles, police and intelligence sources said.
Pakistan's Interior Ministry said law enforcement agencies were chasing the kidnappers and had sealed the area.
``Our security forces are trying to rescue them without getting them harmed,'' Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told The Associated Press.
A Chinese Embassy spokesman in Islamabad said a Pakistani police security guard also was kidnapped.
South Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan, has been wracked by violence this year as the army has conducted a series of operations against suspected foreign militants and local supporters, killing scores of them.
A security official in South Waziristan told AP that authorities had sought the help of several influential tribal elders to trace the kidnappers.
``So far, no group or individual has accepted responsibility for the kidnapping and the government has not received any demands from the hostage-takers,'' the official said on condition of anonymity.
The engineers were working for a Chinese state-owned Water and Hydropower Construction Co. at the Gomal Zam dam, a $203 million project to generate electricity and store water, about 210 miles west of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.
The dam is scheduled to be completed next year. Between 70 and 80 Chinese work on the project, a spokesman at the Chinese embassy in Islamabad said.
Reflecting the project's importance, Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf laid the foundation stone for the dam in August 2001.
An intelligence official in Tank told AP the Chinese engineers were accompanied by at least six security personnel. Security forces found the engineers' jeep and a second vehicle used by their group in Toor Manda, about 38 miles west of Tank, the official said.
The kidnapping is the latest in a series of attacks against Chinese workers in Pakistan and Afghanistan this year.
On June 10, unidentified assailants shot dead 11 Chinese road workers in Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan in the deadliest attack on foreign civilians in the country since the Taliban regime fell in late 2001.
On May 3, a car packed with explosives detonated near a bus carrying Chinese engineers to a deep seaport project at Gawadar in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province, killing three of them and injuring 11 other people. Ethnic Baluch nationalists were suspected.
China, a longtime ally of Pakistan, is the main weapons supplier to Islamabad. Both countries in recent years have expanded cooperation, especially to enhance bilateral trade.