A New Zealand passport holder is being interrogated in Pakistan after he was detained near an al Qaeda stronghold.
The man, identified in his passport as Mark Taylor, 35, is suspected of being “motivated by jihad”, says a senior Pakistani official.
The Press understands Taylor has been living in Australia for several years.
He reportedly also has an Australian passport.
Taylor was detained at a paramilitary checkpost on the outskirts of a town called Tank, while travelling in a van bound for Wana, the main town in the South Waziristan region.
A government administrator in the region, Barkatullah Khan, said Taylor had told the soldiers who detained him that he was going to South Waziristan to marry a tribeswoman.
“He was travelling in a passenger van. He has a beard and was wearing a shalwar kamiz as a disguise,” Khan said, referring to the traditional baggy trousers and tunic outfit worn by men.
Taylor had grown a beard since his passport photo was taken.
He was later handed over to security forces for interrogation.
A security official said Taylor was carrying a tape recorder.
“It appears that he might be a journalist, but he has not admitted that so far,” the official said yesterday.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said New Zealand’s honorary consul in Pakistan had been told of the arrest.
The consul was inquiring into the detained man’s wellbeing and liaising with the closest New Zealand embassy in the region, which was in Tehran.
Taylor’s family had been told of his detention and did not want to comment, she said.
A Christchurch Islamic expert, who asked not to be named, said his first thought on hearing the story was that Taylor might have become caught up with the global Tablighi Jamaat movement.
Members are trained missionaries who travel around mosques encouraging people to follow Islamic principles and the life of Muhammad through his teachings.
They claim to be non-political but are highly conservative and often target new converts.
“Some of them might say `come up to the mountains and we will find you a good Muslim bride someone chaste’.”
Reports indicate that although Tablighi Jamaat is widely considered as a missionary group, its members are becoming increasingly radical and have been linked to the recruitment of young men for training camps in Pakistan.
Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand president Javed Khan said the South Waziristan area was very dangerous for foreigners.
It was also highly conservative, making it unlikely Taylor would be there to marry a local tribeswoman.
“The good thing is he is in the hands of the authorities, not in the hands of the Taleban,” Khan said.