Taliban release 48 abducted students, teachers

"We have released them in the interest of peace in the region. We accepted the request of tribal jirga," Hakimullah Mehsud, deputy of Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud was quoted as saying by TV channels.      

The students and teachers of the Razmak Cadet College, which trains future army officers, were released by militants in North Waziristan Agency, the channels quoted the officials.

Chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas too confirmed the release of the students and teachers.      

The officials claimed the students were released "unconditionally" after security agencies conducted secret parleys with the militants through tribal elders.

The students and teachers would be brought to Bannu in the North West Frontier Province and handed over to a tribal jirga, the officials said.

In another flare up, militants blew up a girls school on the outskirts of the NWFP capital Peshawar, officials said.

They said the school in the Budaber area, 10 km from Peshawar was badly damaged when 40 kgs of explosives were used to blow it up. There were no casualties as the school was closed for summer.

The release of the 48 captives near the volatile area of Waziristan ended a controversy that erupted on Tuesday after Pakistan Army claimed it had freed all hostages taken by militants who intercepted a convoy taking them of cadet college from Razmak in North Waziristan to Bannu.      

It later came to light that the army had freed only 71 students and nine staff members of the college while more than 40 people were still being held by the Taliban.

The parents of the students who were in captivity had demanded a judicial inquiry by the Chief Justice of Pakistan and threatened to initiate legal action against the principal of the college.      

Questions were also raised about whether the students and teachers had been provided adequate security while travelling from Razmak to Bannu.

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