Taliban militants in Afghanistan have kidnapped more than 30 Pakistani boys who inadvertently strayed across the border, officials said on Friday. The incident took place on Thursday after the group of boys, aged between 12 and 18, left the Gharkhi area of Bajaur tribal region during Eid holidays.
“These boys inadvertently crossed into Afghanistan on the second day of Eid and were kidnapped by militants,” senior local administration official Syed Nasim told AFP.
Security officials said they learned of the kidnappings when the parents of the children informed them of the abductions on Friday.
Meanwhile, Afghan border police commander General Aminullah Amarkhel, the governor of Kunar, where the boys vanished, Fazlullah Wahidi, and the local Afghan Taliban commander all told AFP they were unaware of the incident.
Efforts for recovery
About 20 boys below ten years old in the group were allowed to return to Pakistan but those between 12 to 14 years old were held, government official Muhammad Haseeb Khan told Reuters.
About 60 children took part in the outing, he said.
Tribal elders and clerics were trying to negotiate with the militants to secure their release, officials said. “There was no possibility of a grand jirga to be held across the border… but we are trying indirect methods for the safe recovery of these boys,” a senior official from the political administration told The Express Tribune.
Sources also said the parents of these children avoided filing any formal report, out of fear.
Rehman Malik weighs in
Claiming that 10 children were recovered via the efforts of Pakistani officials, federal Interior Minister Rahman Malik vowed to recover the remaining ones too.
Malik also called his Afghan counterpart and requested for assistance in recovery and return of the remaining children.
The boys were abducted by Qari Saqib of Ziaur Rehman group of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, previously blamed for carrying out attacks from across the border into Pakistani territory, sources toldThe Express Tribune.
Tribesmen from the area, where the boys belonged to, are opposed to al Qaeda and the Taliban and have raised militias to fight them, angering militants.
The last similar incident was in June 2009 when hundreds of Pakistani students from the tribal North Waziristan region were kidnapped by the Taliban. All were later released unharmed. WIRES
With additional reporting by Iftikhar Firdous in Peshawar and Zeeshan Mujahid in Karachi.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2011.