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Pakistani Authorities Negotiate with Pro-Taleban Islamists for Captives' Release

19 May 2007

Pakistani authorities are trying to secure the release of four police officers taken hostage by pro-Taleban Islamic students in the capital, Islamabad.

A senior cleric, Abdul Tashid Ghazi, at the radical Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, says the students will free the officers in exchange for several detained seminary students. The cleric also has threatened retaliation if authorities use force against the mosque or the attached seminary.

A spokesman for Pakistan's Interior Ministry, Brigadier Javed Iqbal Cheema, says about 15 Islamist students kidnapped the four unarmed officers Friday as they patrolled outside Lal Masjid in central Islamabad.

In an interview with Pakistani television (Aaj) broadcast late Friday, President Pervez Musharraf said Islamic militancy in on the rise, and that strong measures must be taken to counter it.

Elsewhere, Pakistani officials Saturday said suspected Islamic militants ambushed a government vehicle and kidnapped eight officials. The incident occurred late Friday in North Waziristan, near the Afghan border.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Authorities say the government officials were traveling from the city of Peshawar to inspect development projects in the region, which is a haven for both Taleban and al-Qaida militants.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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