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January 28, 2008
Gunmen release dozens of school children in Pakistan hostage standoff
Gunmen described by Pakistani authorities as "criminals" rather than extremists barged into a school after a botched kidnap plot involving a local health official and seized several dozen children and teachers as hostage.
The Guardian is reporting that thanks to the intervention of local tribal leaders who negotiated and end to the crisis with the hostage takers, all the teachers and children are now safe:
The gunmen had barged into the school in Bannu, near the town of Karak, after a chase and an exchange of fire that killed an eighth gunman and wounded a police officer. Musharraf brushed the incident off at a press conference with Prime Minister Gordon Brown by saying that it was "incidental" the militants entered the school. Nevertheless, the violence highlighted the unrest in the region and Musharraf's ineffective efforts to deal with it.
The chase began after they abducted a health official of a neighbouring district and two of his relatives, who were later freed, also unharmed. Tribal elders were brought in to negotiate with the militants as police surrounded the school.
The militants had "all types of weapons like rocket launchers and grenades", said the district police chief, Dar Ali Khattak.
The incident came as the president, Pervez Musharraf, was travelling through Europe seeking to allay fears about Pakistan's stability. Musharraf, who appeared at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week, met the British prime minister, Gordon Brown, in London today.