The Taliban claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of more than 30 young people who inadvertently crossed the border into Afghanistan.
A spokesman for the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) said those kidnapped were not young boys as reported by Pakistani officials but aged between 20 and 30, adding their fate would be decided by the central leadership of the organisation.
“We have kidnapped them. These people are with us, they are not kids but young people of ages between 20 and 30,” Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.
“These people belong to the areas where tribesmen raised militias against the TTP. We will thoroughly investigate about them and then our central leadership will decide their fate,” Ehsan said.
Pakistani officials had said the incident took place on Thursday after a group of boys, aged between 12 and 18, left the Ghakhi area of Bajaur during Eidul Fitr celebrations.
Bajaur administration official Islam Zeb said the boys had been abducted by a militant group allied with Taliban commander Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, who led local insurgents but is believed to have fled to Afghanistan in 2010.
Zeb told AFP on Saturday that a delegation of Pakistani tribesmen is negotiating with the tribal elders in Afghanistan “to put pressure on the kidnappers to set them free”.
“A tribal Jirga has been sent to Kunar for negotiations,” Zeb said.
Malik Ayaz, a tribal elder involved in negotiations, said that Pakistani tribesmen are facing difficulties securing the safe release of the abductees as the border area is mostly controlled by the Taliban.
An eye-witness account
Mohammad Akhtar, a witness who managed to flee the mass kidnap, said dozens of young people were in the area.
“We were there to enjoy our Eid vacations and all of a sudden the Taliban attacked,” he said.
“Some people managed to flee the area because they were a bit away from the attack site,” he said.
“We were there just for fun to see the mountainous areas and to enjoy,” he added.
Afghan border police commander General Aminullah Amarkhel, the governor of Kunar Fazlullah Wahidi and the local Afghan Taliban commander all told AFP on Friday they were unaware of the incident.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2011.