South Asia

Pakistan Taliban free 17 kidnapped youths from Bajaur

File photo of some of the kidnapped boys
Image caption The Taliban seized about 30 young men in September

The Taliban have freed 17 young men from north-west Pakistan who they seized four months ago, officials say.

About 30 youths were abducted in early September after they inadvertently strayed across the Afghan border.

Several managed to escape over the past few months. At least eight more are still being held by the militants, an official in Bajaur tribal area said.

The Taliban said they kidnapped members of the Mamund tribe because it supported the Pakistani government.

Over the past few years, influential members of the Mamund tribe have sided with the Pakistani military and raised private militias to fight the Taliban. The Pakistani government says the co-operation has helped clear the area of Taliban influence.

The youths, reportedly ranging in age from 10 to about 30 years old, were at a picnic to celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid and had mistakenly crossed the border from Bajaur to take a bath in a spring, when the militants seized them.

At the time of the kidnap there were reports that the militants had demanded Taliban prisoners be released. But local administration officials told the AFP news agency that the 17 youths had been "freed unconditionally".

Two boys who escaped in October spoke extensively to the media about their ordeal.

Securing the long, porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan has long posed a major challenge to the authorities.

The Pakistani government says that many militants have based themselves across the border in Afghanistan's eastern province of Kunar, from where they are known to have carried out attacks in north-western Pakistan.

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