Taliban release kidnapped Pakistani schoolboys

MINGORA, Pakistan (Reuters) – Pakistani Taliban militants have released unharmed a group of schoolboys they abducted on suspicion of spying for the security forces, police said on Thursday.

Police in the Swat valley, northwest of Islamabad, had earlier said about a dozen children, aged 8 to 11, had been kidnapped from outside their school on Tuesday and authorities were negotiating with militants for their release.

But Swat police chief Dilawar Bangash told Reuters on Thursday seven schoolboys aged between 15 and 19, had been kidnapped and all had been released.

“Our earlier information was based on reports from sources and people in the area,” Bangash said in Swat’s main town of Mingora.

“Now we have confirmed reports that they were seven in number, all teenagers, and all have been returned to their homes.”

A militant spokesman, Muslim Khan, confirmed that the schoolboys had been released after assurances from their parents that they would not get involved in any anti-militant activities.

Militant violence has intensified in northwest Pakistan this year with a spate of suicide bombings and attacks on security forces and political leaders in which hundreds of people have been killed.

The militants have also kidnapped people and executed suspected spies. They have also occasionally tried to recruit schoolchildren.

Swat was one of Pakistan’s main tourist destinations until early last year, when militants flocked in from sanctuaries on the Afghan border to support a radical cleric in the area.

Intermittent fighting in the valley increased again in August. The military has also been fighting insurgents in the Bajaur region on the Afghan border, west of Swat, since August.

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