Over 40 still captive in Waziristan, fresh reports suggest
More than 40 students from an Army-run school are still being held captive by Taliban in North Waziristan, officials said, contradicting the military's claim that all the abducted cadets had been freed.world Updated: Jun 03, 2009 17:39 IST
More than 40 students from an Army-run school are still being held captive by Taliban in North Waziristan, officials said, contradicting the military's claim that all the abducted cadets had been freed.
At least 35 students are still missing, Habibullah Khan, Additional Chief Secretary of Federally Administered Tribal Areas has said, while school teachers quoted by news broadcasters put the figure as close to 50.
A convoy of buses was ferrying students and teachers of Razmak Cadet College outside the restive territory when it was ambushed by heavily-armed Taliban militants on Monday.
Chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said Tuesday that the army and Frontier Corps had freed all the 71 students and nine staff members of the college who were kidnapped during a pre-dawn operation.
He also indicated that no more persons were being held by the militants.
But the new reports suggested that the missing students were being held somewhere along the boundary between North and South Waziristan tribal areas, which is suspected to be the stronghold of Taliban and al Qaeda elements.
A student believed to be in captivity spoke to his parents and said that 50 students and two teachers were still being held.
In yet another account, a teacher of the college told Dawn News channel that about 45 students were still missing.
Confusion also surrounded the exact number of people taken hostage when hundreds of students and staff members of the college left Razmak in North Waziristan after the institution closed for a summer break.
Initial reports said nearly 500 people were abducted while some officials later claimed only 60 to 65 people were kidnapped.
The confusion was compounded by the fact that many students and teachers directly went to their homes after escaping from the clutches of the Taliban.
"It took us the whole day to call homes and try to locate individuals in Peshawar, Bannu and other places. Many of them managed to reach home on their own," Additional Chief Secretary Khan said.
Authorities have asked tribal elders in the Bannu area of North West Frontier Province, where Taliban took students hostage, and North Waziristan to hold talks with militants to ensure the early recovery of hostages.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. Neither has any ransom or any other demand been made for the release of the students.
Khan said the government had also warned the Janikhel and Bakkakhel tribes that action would be taken against them under the Frontier Crimes Regulation if they failed to get the students and teachers freed.