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Afghan captors free Pakistani troops
by UK Guardian (reposted)
Monday Sep 10th, 2007 6:50 AM
More than 260 Pakistani troops kidnapped by a pro-Taliban group in Afghanistan have been freed, according to security officials.
The troops were captured more than two weeks ago in a volatile tribal region on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

Security officials and a spokesman for the hostage-takers said the troops were handed over to members of a jirga, or tribal council, in Ladha, a village in south Waziristan.

A spokesman for Pakistan's army said he could not immediately confirm the releases.

Later today the freed soldiers are expected be handed to government officials in Wana, the main town in south Waziristan, a rugged region where al-Qaida and Taliban forces operate.

It was not clear whether there were any conditions of the soldiers' release. The hostage-takers had earlier demanded that authorities withdraw the military from the area and free more than a dozen of their comrades.

Six of the abducted troops were released last week in what an official said was a "goodwill" gesture to the jirga that was trying to negotiate their release.

Pakistan has deployed around 90,000 troops to the Afghan border region to track down Taliban insurgents.

In recent weeks the Taliban and its supporters have stepped up attacks against the military in tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, adding to the government's woes at a time of gathering political crisis in the country.

The US has been pressing Pakistan to do more to crack down on militants in the region amid concerns that al-Qaida might be regrouping there.