– DOZENS HIJACKED FREED BY PAKISTANI ARMY
The Pakistani military said, on Tuesday 06/02/2009 morning, dozens of students abducted by militants, on Monday 06/01/2009 evening, in the FATA region in the Northwest of the country, have been freed during the night by troops.
Several buses carrying students were reported missing in an area near the Afghan border on Monday .A military spokesman said about 80 students and teachers had been freed. The initial reports suggested that few hundreds were abducted by militants.
Pakistani officials believe Taliban militants could be trying to divert attention away from the military offensive against them further north.
Major Gen Athar Abbas, a spokesman for the Pakistan military, said soldiers had opened fire on the militants as they were taking the students to South Waziristan, the stronghold of the notorious warlord Baitullah Mehsud.
“Under cover of the firing the militants escaped and we have recovered them all,” he said.
It was unclear how many people had been captured on Monday as reports from the violence-hit region are difficult to independently verify. Reports said a convoy of about 30 minibuses carrying the students left Razmak Cadet College in North Waziristan bound for the town of Bannu, but that only two had arrived. Witnesses who escaped the convoy said it was stopped by a group of heavily armed men.
Pakistani troops are battling the militants in the Swat District, pushing Northwards from its main city of Mingora, which is now under full government control.
The authorities say more than 1,200 militants and about 90 soldiers have been killed since their offensive began in a neighboring district nearly six weeks ago (see – PAKISTAN REPORT ). The last few days have seen a rise in violence in the tribal areas next to the Afghan border.
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