30 security personnel abducted, released in Pakistan (Lead)

February 4th, 2009 - 9:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Feb 4 (IANS) Islamist militants abducted 23 paramilitary troopers and seven policemen in Pakistan’s restive Swat Valley overnight but released them later, media reports said Wednesday.The dramatic abduction took place after hundreds of insurgents overran a police station in Shamozai area late Tuesday after day-long combat, DPA quoted a police officer as saying.

At least 30 policemen and Frontier Corps paramilitary troops were manning the post when it was attacked.

The rebels captured the officials and blew up the police station before moving to an unknown location.

Geo TV reported Wednesday that the security personnel had been released but it provided no details. Xinhua said it was not immediately known under what conditions the release took place.

The attack came as a new phase of military operations against Islamist militants in Swat in the North West Frontier Province entered its second week.

Government forces have intensified their offensive several villages of the region.

Swat used to be a tourist haven until 2007 when supporters of a radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah started an armed struggle to enforce self-styled Islamic laws, prompting Islamabad to use troops to quell the rebellion.

The rebels have barred barbers from shaving beards and blown up shops selling audio and video entertainment material, calling them un-Islamic. They have also established parallel courts.

The militants have banned education for girls and destroyed hundreds of schools.

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