( dpa ) - A group of Islamic militants entered a high school in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province on Monday and were holding dozens of schoolchildren and teachers hostage, the police officials said.
The insurgents stormed into the school to escape arrest after failing to abduct a government health official and his driver in the Battal Khel area of Bannu district, 200 kilometres south of the NWFP capital Peshawar.
From inside the school building the rebels exchanged fire with police officers, leaving three security personnel injured. One of the hostage-takers was also killed in the gunfight, but all the children remained safe, a district police officer Dar Ali Khattak told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
"The insurgents have released most of the students but are holding a couple of dozens of them and unknown numbers of teachers following negotiations. Further talks are being held to secure the release of the rest," he added.
Local religious leaders were also assisting the local administration in the negotiations.
The militants demanded safe passage for themselves and the corpse of their comrade along with five schoolchildren and 10 local residents, assuring authorities that the hostages would be released once they had crossed into the lawless tribal areas.
The hostage drama is the first of its nature in the ongoing conflict between Islamic extremists and the government of President Pervez Musharraf.
Pro-Taliban militants from the neighbouring restive tribal region bordering Afghanistan routinely launch raids in the Bannu district on security officials and state installations.
Late last year the tribal warriors attacked a security check post in the area and seized ten policemen after disarming them.
Pakistan's tribal belt is believed to be a safe haven for al-Qaeda terrorists and fighters with the Islamist extremist Taliban who fled to the area after US-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.