Taliban says it will kill army hostages

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The Independent Online

The Pakistani Taliban has threatened to kill 33 soldiers it says it has captured in the country's lawless north-west, unless the government releases detained Taliban fighters.

A Taliban spokesman said by telephone yesterday that the soldiers had been seized during various raids. "We want our men back and if they don't free them, they'll lose their soldiers," said Ikramullah Mohmand.

About 40 paramilitary soldiers went missing after the Taliban overran their post near the Afghan border last week. Fourteen were found later in Afghanistan and were flown home. It was not clear if the missing soldiers were the ones in Taliban custody.

Pakistan went on the offensive last year to root out al-Qa'ida-linked militants in the north-west and on the Afghan border. The military says it seized most of the strongholds, but there are pockets of resistance.