Islamabad: Unidentified gunmen kidnapped an Iranian diplomat and killed his Pakistani guard yesterday in Peshawar, capital of the troubled North West Frontier Province (NWFP) bordering Afghanistan, police said.

The abduction of Hashmatullah Atharzadeh, commercial attaché at the Iranian consulate, came a day after an American aid worker and his Pakistani driver were killed in the University Town area of the city in an ambush by unknown assailants.

Police said Atharzadeh's car was intercepted in Hayatabad, a posh suburban neighbourhood of the provincial capital while he was on his way to the consulate from his residence.

The attackers gunned down the guard and taking the diplomat hostage at gunpoint whisked him away in a separate vehicle, a police officer said. Strongly condemning the attack, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani assured the Iranian government that all necessary steps would be taken for early and safe recovery of the diplomat.

Prolonged unrest

Two months ago Afghanistan's consul general in Peshawar Abdul Khaliq Farhai was kidnapped and has remained untraced so far. In August gunmen attacked the car of a female US diplomat but she escaped unhurt.

The worsening security situation in NWFP is attributed to the prolonged unrest in the tribal areas where the army backed by air power has been battling rebellious Taliban militants. The military claims to have killed more than 1,500 insurgents since September in the Bajaur tribal district.