M A I N   N E W S

School kids taken hostage in Pak freed

Gunmen entered the school in Bannu town of North West Frontier Province and took the children hostage after they had kidnapped a health department official and his driver

Islamabad, January 28
Gunmen who took up to 250 Pakistani schoolchildren hostage in a northwestern town on Monday freed them all and surrendered to tribal elders, a government spokesman said.

“All children have been released and the criminals have surrendered to the jirga,” said interior ministry spokesman Javel Iqbal Cheema. A jirga is a council of tribal elders.

Cheema said none of the children was hurt. Violence has spread across Pakistan in recent months, seeping out of remote tribal regions that are sanctuaries for Al Qaida and Taliban militants and into cities and towns, raising fears about the stability of the nuclear-armed US ally.

Cheema said the gunmen were members of a kidnap gang but government officials and the police had earlier said there were as many as seven Islamist militants holding the children in the school in Bannu town.

President Pervez Musharraf told a news conference in London the gunmen were “extremists”.

The gunmen entered the school in the town in North West Frontier Province and took the children hostage after they had kidnapped a health department official and his driver, the police said.

The police chased the gunman and one militant was killed in a clash before the rest of them entered the school. The health official and his driver were freed.

Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz had said there were between 200 and 250 children in the school.

Meanwhile, the military said heavy fighting was going on between the security forces and militants in two areas of South Waziristan on the Afghan border.

Security forces have been battling insurgents led by an Al Qaida-linked militant chief this month. The militant chief, according to the government, was behind the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

One soldier had been killed and nine wounded in the fighting on Monday, the military said.

More than 150 militants and 20 soldiers have been killed in the South Waziristan fighting this month.



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