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Pakistan kidnappers release hostages: official

Gunmen in northwest Pakistan on Monday released the last remaining hostages kidnapped two days ago in a tribal region beset by sectarian violence near the Afghan border, an official said.

world Updated: May 17, 2010 12:32 IST

Gunmen in northwest Pakistan on Monday released the last remaining hostages kidnapped two days ago in a tribal region beset by sectarian violence near the Afghan border, an official said.

Dozens of militants abducted 13 travellers at gunpoint on Saturday while they were driving from Pakistan's main northwestern city of Peshawar to Parachinar, the main town in the Kurram tribal region.

Six hostages were released unconditionally on Sunday and seven on Monday, senior administration official Khalid Omarzai said.

Three government officials, two of them employees of the state-run power supply company, were among those freed following negotiations between local tribal elders and the kidnappers, the official said.

"They are now on their way to their destination in Kurram," said Omarzai.
"It was purely a sectarian issue," he said, blaming Sunni militants.

The area is a flashpoint for Sunni and Shiite extremists, who have kidnapped rival sect members for payment of ransom, sometimes killing the hostages.

Shiites account for about 20 percent of Pakistan's Sunni-dominated population. The two communities usually coexist peacefully, but more than 4,000 people have died in outbreaks of sectarian violence since the late 1980s.

Police had said initially that more than 50 hostages were kidnapped, but senior officials confirmed that only 13 travellers were abducted.