Police in Pakistan say militants armed with grenades have kidnapped at
least 300 students, teachers and their relatives in a northwestern
They say Taliban fighters hijacked a convoy of vehicles from a military-run boys' school, Razmak Cadet College, in
North Waziristan, near the Afghan border. They say the attack was
reported by some members of the group who managed to escape.
An advisor to the prime minister, Mirza Mohammad Jihadi, said authorities are working to secure the captives' release.
North Waziristan and other tribal districts of northwestern Pakistan
are strongholds of Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants. The mass
abduction comes as Pakistani troops have been battling Taliban fighters
for the last month in other parts of the northwest.
The U.S. State Department announced Monday that special representative
Richard Holbrooke will visit Pakistan this week "to assess the welfare
of the people displaced" by the military offensive. Holbrooke and other
U.S. officials will visit the region rom June 3 to 5.
Pakistan's military on Monday said it had lifted its curfew in seven
parts of the Swat Valley, after aid workers and journalists reported a
dire humanitarian crisis in the region.
The Red Cross on Sunday said civilians are struggling to cope with little food and no running water or electricity.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday ordered the release of
$6 million in emergency relief funds for an estimated 2.5 million
people displaced by the recent fighting.
Residents of Swat on Monday said most shops remained closed despite the
lifting of the curfew, and the military pressed on with an offensive
against the Taliban elsewhere in the region.
Troops were reported to be closing in on the town of Charbagh, a key
Taliban stronghold about 20 kilometers outside of the Swat Valley's
main town of Mingora.
The military has dropped leaflets in the area warning residents to evacuate ahead of a possible offensive.
Elsewhere in Pakistan, a bomb ripped through a bus station in the
northwestern garrison town of Kohat, near the tribal areas along the
Afghan border. Police say the blast killed two people and wounded 18
Tribal leaders in the border region of South Waziristan say scores of
families are leaving the region over fears that it will become the next
battleground in the military's offensive against the Taliban.
The military launched the offensive in the Swat Valley and surrounding
districts about a month ago after militants violated a peace deal and
advanced within 100 kilometers of the capital, Islamabad.
The Washington Post newspaper reports that U.S. and
Pakistani officials are saying that unmanned aircraft have killed about
half of 20 "high value" al-Qaida and other militants operating along
the Afghan border. The paper says U.S. intelligence officials believe
Pakistan's offensive in the Swat Valley and the drone strikes have
inflicted heavy losses on extremists and made al-Qaida worried.