Militants release 10 Pakistani soldiers
( Reuters ) - Pakistani militants linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban have released 10 paramilitary soldiers held captive for four days in a tribal region near the Afghan border, a government official said on Wednesday.
"All the soldiers have been set free and they have reached here," said Syed Ahmed Jan, a senior government official in Ghallanai, the main town in the Mohmand tribal region.
The militants kidnapped the 10 soldiers on Saturday. They demanded the release of five of their comrades and the withdrawal of troops from checkposts in the region.
But Jan said the release of the 10 was unconditional and came about after tribal elders negotiated with the militants.
Meanwhile, efforts were continuing to secure the freedom of 240 soldiers who security officials said were abducted in the lawless South Waziristan region on the Afghan border.
Tribal elders have been negotiating with militants in the region, who are demanding that security forces get out of their area.
The military says the men are not captives but are stuck between rival tribal factions and unable to leave.
Many al Qaeda and Taliban members took refuge in Waziristan and other remote regions on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border after U.S. and Afghan opposition forces toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan in late 2001.
Violence in Pakistan, mainly in its northwestern tribal belt on the Afghan border, has soared since the collapse of a peace deal with militants and an army crackdown on a pro-Taliban mosque in the capital in July.