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    40 Pakistani boys held hostage in Kunar

    ASADABAD (PAN): About 40 Pakistani boys have been kidnapped by Taliban militants after they strayed into Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province from Bajaur area of Pakistan during a picnic to celebrate Eid, reports reaching here said on Friday.

    But Kunar governor, Syed Fazlullah Wahidi, rejected the reports as unfounded, saying no one from Pakistan had crossed the border into Kunar.

    The children from the age group of 12-18 years from the restive Bajaur tribal region were kidnapped on Thursday when they crossed over into Kunar, 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.

    A jirga of tribal elders had 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.

    The Kunar governor said there was no picnic place in the region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.