At least 30 Pakistani boys between the ages of 12 and 18 are suspected to have been kidnapped by Taliban militants, after accidentally crossing an unmarked border near the country's northwest border with Afghanistan, officials said Friday.
AFP - Taliban militants have kidnapped more than 30 Pakistani boys who had mistakenly crossed the unmarked border in the country's lawless northwest into Afghanistan, officials said Friday.
They said the incident took place on Thursday after the group of boys, aged between 12 and 18-years-old, visited the area of Gharkhi in Pakistan's Bajaur tribal region for celebrations marking the Muslim Eid holiday.
"These boys inadvertently crossed into Afghanistan while picnicking on the second day of Eid and were kidnapped by militants," senior local administration official Syed Nasim told AFP.
However, Afghan border police commander General Aminullah Amarkhel said he had no knowledge of the abduction, and the local Taliban commander in Kunar province, where the boys vanished, also said he was unaware of the incident.
Afghanistan shares a disputed and unmarked 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) border with Pakistan, and Taliban and other Al-Qaeda-linked militants have carved out strongholds on either side.
The Pakistani military has repeatedly claimed to have eliminated the militant threat in Bajaur, one of seven districts in the semi-autonomous tribal belt that the United States sees as the global headquarters of Al-Qaeda.
Two local intelligence officials said that the kidnappers were apparently from a militant group allied with Taliban commander Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, who led insurgents in Bajaur but is believed to have fled to Afghanistan in 2010.
"The kidnappers were Taliban militants, belonging to Maulvi Faqir Muhammad group," one official said, on condition of anonymity.
Another Pakistani administration official speaking anonymously said security forces were stretched thin along parts of the frontier.
"It is a porous border and security cover is not available everywhere," he said.
Afghanistan and Pakistan blame each other for several recent cross-border attacks that have killed dozens and displaced hundreds of families.
The Pakistani military have accused Faqir Muhammad of being behind an attack on a Pakistani paramilitary checkpost last week, which killed 25 troops.
It said his group helped co-ordinate the raid, adding that the terrorists regrouped in the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan with Afghan support after their expulsion from Pakistan.
An escalating border war in the area is fanning tensions at a key juncture as Afghans and Americans reach out to the Taliban for peace talks.
For years the neighbours have traded accusations over the Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants embedded in both countries, who criss-cross the porous, unmarked border and fight security forces from both governments.
Afghan officials say that since early May hundreds of rockets, mortars and artillery shells have been fired from Pakistan into Afghan villages.
But the Pakistan military admits only that a few stray rounds may have crossed the border and complains that villages on its side of the border have been the victim of Afghan-based Taliban violence.
The row is exacerbated by the fact that Afghanistan disputes the 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) Durrand Line, the 19th century demarcation of the border that separates Pashtun families and tribes.
US troops in Afghanistan earlier this year abandoned remote outposts in the far reaches of Kunar and Nuristan provinces, where they had failed to win over locals, in favour of concentrating on larger population centres.
Date created : 2011-09-02