Many of the Taliban commanders and their foot soldiers are believed to have fled into North Waziristan. — Photo by Reuters

MIRAMSHAH: Taliban militants on Friday freed 23 tribesmen whom they had detained this month for meeting Pakistan's army chief in the country's tribal belt.

Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq told AFP from an undisclosed location that a militant “court” freed the 23 tribesmen after “they swore on the Holy Quran that they would never support the government in future”.

Officials had said 23 elders from the district of South Waziristan were summoned by the Taliban to Razmak, a town in neighbouring North Waziristan, on December 17 and had not returned.

Local intelligence and administration officials confirmed the release.

The military carried out an offensive last year in parts of South Waziristan targeting the headquarters of the country's main Taliban faction, following an increase in militant bomb attacks in late 2009.

Many of the Taliban commanders and their foot soldiers are believed to have fled into North Waziristan.

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