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Terrorism & Security

Pakistani Army rescues dozens of kidnapped students

The operation came after Taliban militants ambushed a convoy, taking hostage at least 80 students and staff of a military school.

By Huma Yusuf / June 2, 2009

Rescued Pakistani students arrive in Bannu, Pakistan on Tuesday. Pakistani security forces rescued dozens of students, teachers, and staff who had been taken captive from their school by militants in the northwest, the army said Tuesday.

Ijaz Muhammad/AP

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Dozens of students and staff members of a military college who were kidnapped by the Taliban in North Waziristan, a tribal region in the northwest of Pakistan, were freed in a military operation on Tuesday, a day after they were taken hostage.

A convoy of about 30 buses carrying students and teachers of Cadet College Razmak was ambushed Monday by armed militants in the Bakkakhel Frontier region in Bannu, a province near Afghanistan. (For a map of the region, click here.) While the captors were transferring their hostages to a new location Tuesday, they were intercepted by the Pakistani Army.

The Pakistani Army said that 79 or 80 students and staff members were rescued. Earlier on Tuesday, some reports cited the number of hostages to be as high as 500.

According to the Pakistani English-language daily Dawn, the Army rescued almost all the Cadet College Razmak hostages while they were being transported to another tribal district.

All except one of the kidnapped students and staff members of Cadet College Razmak were recovered in a military operation, the Inter Services Public Relations said on Tuesday....
According to [military spokesman] Maj. Gen. Abbas, Razmak lies on the route to South Waziristan, where militant still have a stronghold, where the militants were planning to take the kidnapped students. Abbas added that the military anticipated this plan of action and launched an operation on the route leading to South Waziristan.
The resulting firefight helped army overcome the militants and recover the students, he told DawnNews.

However, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that before launching an operation to recover the students, the Army had tried negotiating with the Taliban.

"We tried to secure the release through negotiation. After that, we were compelled to launch a military operation," a military spokesman said in Peshawar.
No soldiers or civilian casualties were reported in the sting operation.
Tribal elders and government officials had been locked in talks overnight on efforts to secure the release of the students and staff.

According to The Washington Post, the teenage students and college staff were leaving for their summer vacation when they were abducted by militants on Monday.

Their bus convoy was on its way to the nearby district of Bannu when it was halted by masked men wielding assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades, said a security official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Of the approximately 30 buses that left the school, only two reached their destination, according to Iqbal Marwat, district police chief in Bannu. However, other officials in Bannu said most of the buses arrived safely.
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