|Pakistani officials are said to be negotiating the release of the boys [GALLO/GETTY]|
The Taliban in Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the kidnap of up to 30 young people who had mistakenly crossed the border from the country’s lawless northwest into Afghanistan.
The group’s spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said in a statement on Saturday that the fate of the boys from Bajaur would be decided by the central leadership of the organisation.
“We have kidnapped these boys as punishment for their parents and tribal elders who are helping the government fighters,” Ehsan said.
Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from the capital, Islamabad, said: “It is very common for those who live in Bajaur … those who support the government of Pakistan to be targted by fighters particularly from the Taliban.”
The spokesman did not say where the boys were being kept.
Bajaur’s senior government administrator, Islam Zeb, said 25 boys were missing although other sources said as many as 30 were kidnapped.
Zeb told the AFP news agency on Saturday a delegation of Pakistani tribesmen was negotiating with the tribal elders in Afghanistan “to put pressure on the kidnappers to set them free” the boys.
“We are trying our best to seek their release. A tribal Jirga has been sent to Kunar for negotiations,” Zeb said.
Afghan border police commander General Aminullah Amarkhel, the governor of Kunar, where the boys vanished, Fazlullah Wahidi, and the local Afghan Taliban commander all told AFP on Friday they were unaware of the incident.
Afghanistan shares a disputed and unmarked 2,400-km border with Pakistan, and Taliban and other al-Qaeda-linked fighters have carved out strongholds on either side.
Bajaur is opposite the eastern Afghan province of Kunar and has long been an infiltration route for fighters entering Afghanistan to fight US-led forces there.
In June 2009, hundreds of Pakistani students from the tribal North Waziristan region were kidnapped by Pakistani Taliban as they travelled in a convoy of buses to the northwestern town of Bannu after their college closed for its summer vacation.
All were later released unharmed.
Afghanistan and Pakistan blame each other for several recent cross-border attacks that have killed dozens and displaced hundreds of families.