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Kidnapped Pakistani Students Rescued

People flee as a curfew was temporarily lifted in north-western Swat valley on May 31
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -- Scores of kidnapped Pakistani students and staff from a military-run college who were abducted by Taliban militants in the northwest of the country have been rescued, a military spokesman said.

The abduction took place on June 1 as the Pakistani Army pressed on with an offensive against the Taliban in the Swat Valley, in another part of the northwest.

The Taliban were taking the kidnapped students to South Waziristan when soldiers challenged them on a road and a clash erupted, said military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas.

"Under cover of the firing the militants escaped and we have recovered them all," Abbas said.

Abbas said 80 students and staff had been recovered.

Taliban fighters with hand grenades seized the students' convoy heading home for the summer holiday from the North Waziristan ethnic-Pashtun region, on the Afghan border, to the town of Bannu, 240 kilometers southwest of Islamabad.

Bannu police chief Iqbal Marwat said on June 1 that the Taliban had seized up to 400 people in 28 vehicles but scores had escaped.

The vice principal of the college, Javed Alam, later told Reuters about 200 had managed to slip away and had arrived at Bannu.

The surge of militant violence in Pakistan has alarmed the United States, which needs Pakistani action to help defeat Al-Qaeda and get to grips with the Taliban insurgency in neighbouring Afghanistan.

There are several Taliban- and Al-Qaeda-linked groups based in North and South Waziristan in a loose alliance with the Taliban in Swat. South Waziristan is also the base of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

Pakistan launched an offensive against a growing Taliban insurgency in the Swat Valley, 120 kilometers northwest of northwest of Islamabad, a month ago.