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Militants Abduct 400 in Northwest Pakistan

The attack occurred as militant violence is increasing in the country’s tribal belt, and as the Pakistani army continued an offensive against the Taliban in the Swat valley in another part of the northwest.

Police official Meer Sardar said the abduction occurred about 20 miles from Razmak Cadet College in North Waziristan. The captives were leaving the school in minibuses after a warning phone call from a man believed to be a political official, Sardar said.

“The driver of one of the vehicles managed to escape and students reported to us that their colleagues have been kidnapped by Taliban,” said Razaq Khan, a police official in Bakka Kheil village in the area, according to Reuters.

“The students reported that one Taliban carrying a hand grenade boarded each of the buses and took them away. We don’t know where they have gone.”

Police were negotiating with the Taliban for the release of the captives taken in North Waziristan, said Mirza Mohammad Jihadi, an adviser to the prime minister, reported the Associated Press.

Pakistan has been carrying out an offensive against a growing Taliban insurgency in the Swat valley, northwest of Islamabad. The army recaptured Swat’s main town, Mingora, on Saturday.

The military was planning to wrap up its five-week campaign to drive Taliban insurgents from the area within days, reported Bloomberg News, as the army said a sense of “normalcy” was returning to the streets of the city.

The army says it has cleared 90 percent of Buner, a district neighboring Swat, of Taliban fighters. Security forces lifted curfews in both Mingora and Buner by Monday, according to the country’s official Associated Press.

The offensive began April 26 after the Taliban violated the terms of an earlier peace accord that introduced Islamic law in the Swat region and advanced to within 60 miles of Islamabad.

As many as 1,217 militants have been killed and 79 arrested in the operation, the army spokesman’s office said, reported Bloomberg.

But the army offensive has seen retaliation from militants– eight bomb attacks have occurred in various towns since it began. An estimated 3 million people have been displaced by the fighting so far.

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