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01 Jun 2004 14:32
Senior South African diplomat Nicky Scholtz was bound with wire, beaten and repeatedly tortured during a week of captivity after being seized by kidnappers from one of the Malaysian capital’s busiest streets, officials said on Tuesday.
Scholtz’s captors, who thought he was a tourist, extorted thousands of dollars and threatened to kill him if he told anyone about the attack, the latest in a series of security scares that have sent jitters through the diplomatic corps in Malaysia, which prides itself as a placid, tourist-friendly place.
Scholtz was kidnapped on May 23, less than a month after arriving in Malaysia to take up a posting as his country’s number two diplomat. He walked into the high commission around dawn seven days later after his captors handed him money for a taxi and released him.
Police have appealed for public help to find the kidnappers and released photographs of three suspects.
Scholtz (54) has not spoken publicly about his ordeal and his current whereabouts are unknown.
Scholtz was seized “in what appears to have been a random attack on the mistaken assumption that he was a solitary foreign tourist,” the statement said, as he walked between his luxury hotel and a shopping mall at the foot of Kuala Lumpur’s landmark Petronas Twin Towers, among the world’s tallest buildings.
Scholtz’s attackers dragged him—screaming for help—into a car and sped away “with his left leg still protruding from the car”, and one of the kidnappers repeatedly slamming the door on his leg trying to get it closed.
Scholtz was “confined with the purpose of brutally extorting money” and was “at times threatened with a knife, bound with wire cables, repeatedly tortured”, the statement said. “On more than one occasion his captors threatened to kill him.”
The kidnappers fractured at least two of Scholtz’s ribs, temporarily dislocated his jaw and caused severe bruising to his back, face, arms and legs.
They extorted R21Â 373 and 3Â 500 ringgit (about RÂ 000) from Scholtz before releasing him “on threat of death, only on condition that he would leave Malaysia without reporting any of his experiences to his colleagues or the Malaysian authorities”, the statement said.
Malaysian police say the suspects were filmed on a hotel security video entering Scholtz’s room the day after he was captured and leaving with cash and other valuables. Newspaper reports also said they tried to access his bank accounts with stolen cards.
The suspects’ photographs showed men with South Asian features, and police say they may have spoken Hindi. No other details are known about the suspects.
Scholtz, whose full name is Cornelius van Niekerk Scholtz, has previously served in Taiwan, Indonesia and Hungary. He arrived in Malaysia on April 20.
Security at embassies in Kuala Lumpur was boosted after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, but there have been a series of security scares.
This year, a fire and axe attack almost razed Myanmar’s embassy and injured a senior diplomat, a pipe bomb was thrown at the Australian high commission, and threatening letters have been sent to the Thai and Japanese missions for their governments’ support of the Iraq war. In 2002, the US embassy was closed briefly because of a truck bomb scare.
Several Western countries have issued travel advisories warning their citizens to avoid certain parts of Malaysia because of threats posed by Islamic terrorist groups operating in south-east Asia.—Sapa-AP
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