Militants 'kidnap 40 boys from Pakistan'

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The Independent Online

Suspected Taliban militants in Afghanistan have kidnapped up to 40 Pakistani boys who inadvertently strayed across the border, officials said yesterday.

The boys, from Mamoun in the Pashtun tribal region of Bajaur, were trekking when they ended up in Afghanistan on Wednesday. "Now, they are being held by militants across the border," said Muhammad Haseeb Khan, a government official.

It was not possible to verify the claim. Afghanistan's Interior Ministry considers the claim a "rumour", a spokesman in Kabul said.

Security officials said they learnt of the kidnappings when approached by parents of the children. About 20 boys under 10 were allowed to return to Pakistan but those aged between 12 and 14 were still being held, Mr Khan said. Tribal elders and clerics are trying to negotiate their release. Bajaur is a route for Islamist militants entering Afghanistan but tribesmen from Mamoun are opposed to al-Qa'ida and the Taliban. REUTERS