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Dozens of people taken hostage by suspected militants in northwestern Pakistan have been freed, an official says.

Regional official Mumtaz Khan sais on May 15 that 60 people had been seized by the militants in two separate incidents in the Kurram region. Local tribal elder Hameedullah Khan said militants released 40 of their hostages and that 10 others had escaped.

The remaining 10 hostages are all believed to be employees of the Pakistani power company. Hameedullah Khan said they were being held by Taliban militants who "are just holding them to verify their identity."

Mumtaz Khan confirmed that the militants seemed "reluctant" to release the last 10 hostages but said the government has enlisted the aid of local tribal elders to mediate.

Others in Pakistan have said the kidnappings are a tribal matter and part of efforts to undermine negotiations in the area between Sunni and Shiite communities there.

compiled from agency reports