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Afghan diplomat kidnapped

Militants kidnapped a senior Afghan diplomat Monday, as diplomatic missions beefed up security following Saturday's Marriott Hotel bombing. Five or six gunmen opened fire at the car of the diplomat, Afghanistan's consul general, as it passed through a wealthy neighborhood of Peshawar, according to the Afghan Foreign Ministry.

The driver was killed and the consul, Abdul Khaliq Farahi, was taken away, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Sultan Ahmad Baheen, said. Farahi was one of several candidates to be Afghanistan's next ambassador to Pakistan.

The kidnapping was another indication of the country's rising insecurity, which spread to the capital, Islamabad, with the Marriott bombing. The attack killed 53 people, including the Czech ambassador and two U.S. defense officials.

Contradictory reports emerged Monday that the country's top leadership may have been the target of the hotel bombing. A senior official, Rehman Malik of the Interior Ministry, said the Marriott had been considered as a location for a dinner for top government and military officials after President Asif Ali Zardari's address to Parliament. The dinner was changed to the prime minister's residence, less than a mile away. “The function was not held at the Marriott, thus the whole leadership was saved,” Malik said.

His comments were disputed by the Pakistani businessman who owns the hotel, who said the government inquired about dinner but never followed up. In any case, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said the bomber attacked the Marriott only after security prevented him from reaching Parliament or the premier's residence.

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