Police: Group of 400 Abducted in NW Pakistan

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MIRAN SHAH, Pakistan - Suspected militants armed with rockets, grenades and automatic weapons abducted some 400 students, staff and relatives driving away from a boy's school in a troubled tribal region in northwest Pakistan on Monday, police and a witness said.

The brazen abduction came amid rising militant violence in Pakistan's tribal belt - actions the military says are aimed at distracting it from its offensive against the Taliban in the nearby Swat Valley.

Details were still emerging Monday about the nature of the attack. No group immediately claimed responsibility.

Police official Meer Sardar said the abduction occurred about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Razmak Cadet College in North Waziristan tribal area. The people were leaving the school area after they were warned to get out in a phone call from a man they believed to be a political official, Sardar said, citing accounts from a group of 17 who managed to get away.

Around 30 buses, cars and other vehicles were carrying the students, staff and others when they were stopped along the road by a large group of alleged militants in their own vehicles.

The details were confirmed by a staff member at the school who was among those who escaped. He requested anonymity out of fear of Taliban reprisal but said the school's principal was among those abducted. His vehicle happened to be behind a truck on the road, and it was less visible, so the driver slipped away.

The staffer said the assailants carried rockets, Kalashnikovs, hand grenades and other weapons.

It was unclear how many students were involved, though they made up the majority of the group. Cadet colleges in Pakistan are usually run by retired military officers and educate teenagers. They also typically provide room and board.

North Waziristan is a major Taliban stronghold bordering Afghanistan.
     
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.

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