A group of about 40 Pakistani boys, who strayed into Afghanistan during a picnic to celebrate Eid have been kidnapped by Taliban militants, raising fears that they could be turned into suicide bombers.
The children from the age group of 12-18 years are from the restive Bajaur tribal region and were kidnapped on Thursday when they crossed over into Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province, television channels quoted an official as saying.
A Pakistan army official said deputy chief of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Maulvi Faqir, who belonged to Bajajur, is now operating from Kunar. Bajaur has the dubious distinction of producing Pakistan's first group of female suicide bombers, who have been in action in the recent past. A 'jirga' or council of tribal elders, have been sent to Afghanistan to seek their release, the official said.
Dawn TV reported that militants had arrived in five vehicles and took the children to unknown destinations. There were however conflicting reports on the number of children kidnapped. While some TV channels put the figure at 40, others said only 30 boys were being held hostage. Tribal elders also asked the local administration to step up efforts for the early release of the children.
Regional Khyber TV reported that the children could be used for suicide bombings if the government and tribal elders failed to secure their release. The parents of the children held hostage have asked the government and the tribal elders to ensure their safe return. A jirga of the main Mamond tribe has been convened to explore ways to rescue the children.
Officials said members of Pakistani Taliban are also active across the border and are launching attacks on Pakistani posts from their bases in the Afghan border regions.