Militants demand swap of captives

August 12, 2007

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TANK, Aug 11: Militants in the South Waziristan Agency have demanded release of 10 of their colleagues, taken prisoner by security forces, in exchange for 15 paramilitary personnel said to have been kidnapped on Thursday, according to a tribal elder.

The elder, who held talks with the militants to persuade them to release 15 personnel of the Frontier Corps (FC), confided to Dawn that they had handed over to the authorities a list of 10 prisoners who were arrested on charges of militancy. However, he did not disclose the names of the prisoners.

It is learnt that the administration had given three days to the Mehsud tribesmen to recover the kidnapped personnel, failing which they would be fined Rs500,000 per day under the territorial responsibility clause of the Frontier Crimes Regulation.

The paramilitary men had gone missing when they were proceeding from Frontier Region Jandola to Sararogha in a private vehicle in South Waziristan Agency. However, none of the militant groups claimed responsibility for their kidnapping.

Sararogha and its surrounding areas of the agency are considered to be a stronghold of the slain militant commander Abdullah Mehsud who was killed recently during an encounter in the Zhob district of Balochistan.

Sources said the militants had handed over the list of militants to senior officials of the Frontier Corps in Jandola. It is suspected that the said list includes names of some militants who were arrested in the adjacent Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts on charges of planning to carry out suicide bombings.

Laddah subdivision’s Assistant Political Agent Yahya Khan told Dawn that they had indeed received information about the militants’ demands, but these were yet to be made through a proper forum. Mr Khan confirmed that the administration had set a three-day deadline to the Mehsud tribe and fine would be imposed against them if they failed to comply with the order.