ISLAMABAD: All except one of the kidnapped students and staff members of Cadet College Razmak were recovered in a military operation, the Inter Services Public Relations said on Tuesday.
A statement released by the ISPR said that 79 kidnap victims, including cadets and staff members were recovered after a military operation.
‘All the cadets except one have been recovered in an army operation this morning at 5 a.m.,’ said military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas.
The operation was carried out in Guryum area, nearly 20 kilometres east of Razmak, where the college is located.
According to Maj. Gen. Abbas, Razmak lies on the route to South Waziristan, where militant still have a stronghold, where the militants were planning to take the kidnapped students. Abbas added that the military anticipated this plan of action and launched an operation on the route leading to South Waziristan.
The resulting firefight helped army overcome the militants and recover the students, he told DawnNews.
Abbas said that the military is not carrying out an offensive operation in South Waziristan and is only preparing for any attacks from the militants in the area, where military convoys have come under attacks.
Earlier on Monday, conflicting reports came in about the number of kidnap victims with most news agencies reporting the figure to be 500.
Militants kidnapped the students of Razmak Cadet College from the Bakkakhel Frontier Region, Bannu, adjacent to the North Waziristan tribal region.
Details were sketchy but the official said that 33 vehicles had started off from Razmak, with 540 cadets, teaching staff and their families after the principal of the college ordered its closure amid apprehensions about an impending military operation against militants.
‘The vehicles were waylaid by armed militants in the Bakkakhel area and commandeered towards Marwat Canal,’ the official said.
Police said that some women and children were later freed. But, the militants carrying rockets, grenades and automatic machine guns boarded the vehicles and commandeered them to some unspecified place.
Another coach, carrying 17 people, including 10 students, a librarian and a doctor, managed to reach the Miryan police station in Bannu. They were later escorted to the Cantonment police station for their onward journey to their destinations, the police official said.
‘The Taliban are behind the kidnapping,’ Mir Sardar, Assistant Sub-Inspector of the Miryan police station, told The New York Times by phone from Bannu.
Marwat Canal leads to South Waziristan’s Spinkay, through Frontier Region Tank, linked up by a nullah frequently used by militants to bypass security checkposts.
Gul Bahadur, leader of the Ittehad-i-Shura Mujahideen, North Waziristan, has wide influence in Bakkakhel and some officials believe that the kidnapping could not have taken place without his blessing.
‘He thinks that he can hoodwink us by escorting these students and teachers to fulfil his commitment not to harm them in his area of influence and then have them kidnapped from Bakkakhel. But we all know whose people operate in Bakkakhel,’ the official said.
The number of those kidnapped varied, but one official put the figure at close to 518, including cadets and members of the teaching staff.
District Police Officer of Bannu Iqbal Marwat, however, said that 67 cadets had managed to reach the police, while over 400 were missing.