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Militants kidnap 400 students, others in Pakistan
Mon Jun 1, 2009 4:15pm EDT
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By Alamgir Bitani
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Taliban militants in northwest Pakistan kidnapped up to 400 students from a military-run college, with teachers and relatives, on Monday as they were traveling in mini-buses, police said.
The abduction took place while the Pakistani army pressed on with an offensive against the Taliban in the Swat valley in another part of the northwest.
Taliban fighters with hand grenades seized the students' convoy heading home for the summer holiday from the North Waziristan ethnic Pashtun region on the Afghan border to the town of Bannu, 240 km (150 miles) southwest of Islamabad.
"The driver of one of the vehicles managed to escape and students reported to us that their colleagues have been kidnapped by Taliban," said Razaq Khan, a police official in Bakka Kheil village in North West Frontier Province.
"The students reported that one Taliban carrying a hand grenade boarded each of the buses and took them away. We don't know where they have gone," he said.
Bannu police chief Iqbal Marwat said up to 400 people in 28 vehicles were seized. Sixty-seven escaped, he said.
Militant violence has grown in nuclear-armed Pakistan since mid-2007, with attacks on security forces, and on government and Western targets.
The violence has alarmed the United States, which needs Pakistani action to help defeat al Qaeda and get to grips with the Taliban insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan.
There are several Taliban- and al-Qaeda-linked groups based in North Waziristan in a loose alliance with Taliban in Swat. The army has not launched an offensive in North Waziristan.
Militants have captured many members of the Pakistani security forces in the past few years but the kidnapping of civilians is relatively rare.
Mirza Mohammad Jihadi, an adviser to the prime minister on the tribal areas, said efforts were in progress to secure their release.
"Contacts have been established with the kidnappers and talks are under way," Jihadi told Reuters.
Government officials said they were checking the report.
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