Beijing checking out IS hostage claims: Chinese govt

Beijing checking out IS hostage claims: Chinese govt
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China's Foreign Ministry said on Friday that a Chinese national reported as being held hostage by Islamic State insurgents matches the "characteristics" of a Chinese citizen who has gone overseas.

Ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the comments at a regular news briefing.

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Beijing is attempting to verify reports that a Chinese citizen has been taken hostage by the Islamic State extremist group, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Thursday.

"We have taken note of the reports and are still trying to check this out," Hong said at a daily news conference in Beijing.

He reaffirmed the Chinese government's strong opposition to any violent attacks targeting innocent civilians.

In the latest issue of its English-language magazine Dabiq, IS claimed it had kidnapped a Chinese and a Norwegian, and it demanded an unspecified ransom for their release.

The group claims the Chinese man "for sale" is freelance consultant Fan Jinghui, 50, from Beijing, according to a full-page "advertisement" in the magazine.

It also included a number for "whoever would like to pay the ransom for his release and transfer", without revealing when or where the prisoner was captured, or whether he is still alive.

The Norwegian being held was identified as Ole Johan Grimsgaard-Ofstad, 48, from Oslo.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg confirmed on Wednesday that a Norwegian citizen had been taken hostage by IS in Syria, but Oslo had refused to pay any ransom, Xinhua News Agency reported.

"Norway does not pay ransom. It is a principle we cannot waive," Solberg said, adding that payment of a ransom will increase the risk of other Norwegians being kidnapped.

Chinese media reported Fan as saying on a radio programme that he did not like to remain in one place for too long and enjoyed the insecurity of "drifting".

"Many people dare not lead a wandering life due to the pressure of everyday life, reality or family. If their basic requirements could be guaranteed, I believe a lot of people would choose to do so (wander)," he said.

Li Guofu, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said the situation is complicated due to the scant details.

"Verification is the priority before we talk about further action. For example, we should check out whether he (Fan) is connected with any company or institution that is responsible for his safety," he said.

Li also warned Chinese citizens not to go to war-torn countries or regions.

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