Lahore: Twelve heavily armed suspected Taliban militants barged into the residence of an American national and kidnapped him in the wee hours on Saturday after overpowering his guards in Pakistan's Punjab provincial capital.

About a dozen armed men entered the house of Warren Weinstein in Block J of Model Town neighbourhood at 3:30 am and took him away after overpowering his four guards, police spokesman Niyab Haider Naqvi told a news agency.

The kidnappers bundled Weinstein into a vehicle and took him to an unknown location, Naqvi said. Other officials, who did not want to be identified, said they suspected the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan was behind the abduction.

US Embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez confirmed that an American citizen had been kidnapped but declined to identify him. "He was working for a private Company. We are working with Pakistani authorities on the issue," Rodriguez said.

Security guards at the American's residence were preparing for 'sehri', the pre-dawn meal in the Islamic holy month of Ramzan, when the kidnappers struck. The abductors assaulted the guards and tied them up before taking Weinstein away.

The guards told police that the kidnappers were masked. The abductors remained at the house for about 10 minutes and did not speak to the guards, police officials said. Weinstein, believed to be in his sixties, was the country head of JE Austin Associates, a US-based consulting firm, and was working on a development project in Pakistan's volatile tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

He had been living in Pakistan for the past six to seven years. He mostly lived in Islamabad and often travelled to Lahore. Police cordoned off the area after learning of the abduction.

Senior officials, including the Lahore Police Chief and operatives of intelligence agencies, visited the crime scene to supervise the investigation.

Check posts were set up across Lahore by police, who also conducted raids at several places as part of efforts to trace the US national. Three of the security guards at Weinstein’s residence were taken in for questioning, police said.

No group claimed responsibility for the abduction. It could not immediately be ascertained if Weinstein had been kidnapped for ransom. Such crimes are common in Pakistan but foreigners are not often targeted by kidnappers.

The Pakistani Taliban had recently claimed responsibility for kidnapping a Swiss couple in the restive Balochistan province last month. The militants said the couple could be freed in exchange for Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman serving a jail term in the US for attacking American security personnel in Afghanistan.

Eight Pakistani employees of the US-based NGO American Refugee Committee were also kidnapped in Balochistan last month. They are yet to be traced.

Anti-American sentiments have been running high in Pakistan since al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a covert raid by US Special Forces in the garrison city of Abbottabad on May 2.

(Agencies)