Heavily armed Taliban militants on Monday abducted nearly 400 students and staff members of a cadet college after intercepting a convoy of buses in a lawless tribal region near the North West Frontier Province.
There was initially some confusion about the exact number of students who had been abducted. Police officials later put the number of abducted students and staff members at nearly 400.
Earlier, Mirza Muhammad, an advisor to the Pakistani Prime Minister, said all but 17 of 500 students from Razmak Cadet College who were travelling in a convoy to Bannu town in NWFP had been kidnapped by militants.
Muhammad said the students, aged between 15 and 26 years, had left the college after it closed for a break. The students were accompanied by security guards.
A bus carrying 17 students managed to evade the militants, Muhammad told Dawn News channel. Police officials said another bus too evaded the abductors and reached a nearby police station.
Muhammad said students who reached Bannu and police officials had told him the kidnappers were Taliban fighters.
Reports said the students had left the college in a convoy of 29 buses. All the buses crossed the Khajori check post in North Waziristan Agency before they were intercepted by the militants.
Muhammad said police and the political administration of North Waziristan had launched efforts to free the students. The abductors had not made any demands so far, he said.