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.
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The convoy was accompanied by a local Taliban group for protection, but around 5 p.m., when the convoy reached a checkpoint at a place called Khajuri, that group left and armed men with another Taliban group approached, [an employee of the college] said.
He said four armed men waved over their minivan and got on board, arguing with the driver. When they began asking men to leave the van, women began to weep, he said, and the gunmen ultimately let the van go.
They reached the town of Bannu, the destination for the convoy, but only 7 other vehicles had made it, leaving about 20 unaccounted for.
According to Dawn, the Taliban commander in the tribal district of North Waziristan, who had promised the students safe passage, could be complicit in the kidnapping.
Gul Bahadur, leader of the Ittehad-i-Shura Mujahideen, North Waziristan, has wide influence in Bakkakhel and some officials believe that the kidnapping could not have taken place without his blessing.
Even after 79 students and staff members have been recovered, it remains unclear how many people were kidnapped by the militants. Quoting officials, some news agencies cited the number to be as high as 500. The Britain-based newspaper The Daily Telegraph reports that conflicting statistics are being quoted by security officials.
Iqbal Marwat, Bannu's police chief, said that Taliban had seized up to 400 people in 28 vehicles but that cores had escaped.
The vice principal of the college, Javed Alam, said about 200 had managed to flee from their captors and had arrived at Bannu.
Maj Gen Abbas said 80 students and staff had been recovered.
According to the BBC, violent incidents along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border are increasing in number. Although the Pakistani Army has not launched a military offensive in South Waziristan, there are reports that the region will be targeted soon.
There has been a rise in violent incidents in recent days in the tribal areas next to the Afghan border.
The BBC's Chris Morris in Islamabad says officials believe militants are trying to divert attention away from a major military offensive in the Swat valley.
Fears of attacks by militants have increased after a military offensive against the Taliban in parts of the north-west.