PESHAWAR - Taliban gunmen have kidnapped a Chinese tourist in northwest Pakistan, close to the militant-infested tribal areas, an insurgent commander claimed Tuesday.
The man is the latest foreigner to be seized by militants in Pakistan. At least five others are known to be currently captive, including the elderly US aid worker Warren Weinstein, held since August 2011.
The Chinese man was abducted on Monday from Daraban, in restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province close to the border with Baluchistan province and South Waziristan tribal district, both of which are rife with insurgents.
Officials said the man was apparently passing through the area by bike when he was taken.
"We have recovered his bicycle and his travelling bag and have registered a case of kidnapping," said Mohammad Salim Khan who heads the police station in the remote area, around 50 kilometres (30 miles) southwest of the city of Dera Ismail Khan.
It was not clear exactly what the Chinese national was doing in the remote region but police said he entered from Baluchistan.
Tasnim Aslam, spokeswoman for the Pakistani foreign ministry, confirmed the kidnapping and told AFP that police had launched a search operation.
China is one of Pakistan's main allies, investing billions of dollars in infrastructure projects including nuclear power plants, dams and roads.
A faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said they were behind the abduction.
"We have kidnapped the Chinese national and we claim responsiblity for it," Abdullah Bahar, a commander in South Waziristan told AFP, adding that the man had been taken to a secret location on the Afghan border.
The Chinese embassy in Islamabad could not be reached for comment, but in its report on the kidnapping China's state news agency Xinhua said an official had said the mission was "contacting Pakistan's relevant departments to verify the incident".
Past kidnappings have mostly targeted Westerners, including Weinstein and two Czech tourists abducted in Baluchistan in March last year.
In August 2008 two Chinese engineers were abducted in the northwestern Swat Valley, with one escaping quickly and the other freed after six months in captivity.
Militants have used hostages as bargaining chips to try to obtain the release of Taliban prisoners and also for ransom.
Not all abductions have been resolved peacefully - in April 2012 the body of a British man working for the Red Cross was found outside the Baluchistan capital Quetta, four months after he was kidnapped.