Dera Ismail Khan, Dec 28 (ANI): Defying an ongoing military offensive, the Pakistan Taliban have abducted 23 tribesmen, who had met with army chief General Ashfaq Kayani during a recent trip to Pakistan's lawless tribal belt.
Intelligence officials and a local government official said that 23 elders from South Waziristan were summoned on December 17 by the Taliban to Razmak, a town in North Waziristan, and have not returned so far.
"Our reports say that they had been detained by Taliban," the Daily Times quoted a tribal administration official, as saying.
The 23 people- including several students, were among those who attended functions with General Kayani in the Ladha and Makeen areas of South Waziristan on December 7.
The circumstances surrounding their capture were murky. According to local intelligence officials, the terrorists lured the victims to a town on the border of South and North Waziristan with promises of food rations, and then grabbed the unsuspecting tribesmen.
Those kidnapped hailed from different families in various parts of South Waziristan and are part of the Mehsud tribe.
The abductions further threaten the government's shaky effort to convince hundreds of thousands of displaced members of the Mehsud tribe that the Taliban are defeated, and that it is safe to return to their homes in South Waziristan.
"On one side, the government says peace is established in South Waziristan, and on the other our tribesmen are being kidnapped," said Maulana Esamuddin Mehsud, one of two Mehsud tribal leaders who said they learned of the kidnappings from the victims' relatives.
Pakistan Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq told a news agency that the Taliban courts in South Waziristan were deciding how to punish the abducted people, and should come up with a "verdict" within days.
"This is a warning to the tribal people to not come to the area because we are still present in South Waziristan," Tariq said via phone.
He claimed that seven Taliban courts as well as 22 offices were functioning in South Waziristan. (ANI)