Watch CBSN Live

130 Kidnapped Pakistani Troops Released

By CBS News' Farhan Bokhari, reporting from Lahore, Pakistan.

About 130 Pakistani Army soldiers and paramilitaries have been released by militants along the Pakistan-Afghan border, but have not been able to leave the area due to fighting between tribes nearby, according to a military spokesman.

Major Gen. Waheed Arshad told CBS News Friday that the "situation has almost been resolved."

Arshad would not elaborate on the conditions surrounding the soldiers' release, or on the breakdown of how many in the group - kidnapped late Thursday - were state troops, and how many were paramilitaries.

The group was kidnapped in the restive south Waziristan area of Pakistan's border tribal region, provoking fresh concerns over the security of troops stationed in the area.

The men disappeared when they were traveling in trucks near Wana, the main town of south Waziristan, according to a senior government official. "Maybe up to 100 men have gone missing," said the government official, who spoke to CBS News on the condition of anonymity "We have not heard from them since this (Thursday) afternoon. The fear is that these people have been kidnapped by local Taliban."

In Islamabad, a senior Western diplomat warned late Thursday that the kidnappings could seriously undermine Pakistan's effort to combat militants in a region where U.S., NATO and Afghan troops are stationed on the other side of the border in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, at least seven Pakistani paramilitary soldiers belonging to the Frontier Constabulary paramilitary force were killed in the early morning hours in what appeared to be a militant attack on an FC post, according to the privately owned GEO TV channel. The TV channel said at least seven paramilitary soldiers were also injured.

The attack follows a string of suicide and armed attacks in the northern region that began in July after President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's military ruler, ordered an attack on the Taliban style Lal (Red) mosque and its adjoining women's seminary, known as Jamia Hifza, in central Islamabad.

Earlier this week, Taliban militants in South Waziristan released 15 Pakistani paramilitary soldiers. A 16th soldier was beheaded while he was in custody of the kidnappers. A gruesome video showing a young boy cutting off the man's head was sent to Pakistani officials before the men were released.

"The kidnapping of such large numbers of paramilitary men shows that the security arrangements for government troops are very weak in this area," said a Western diplomat who spoke to CBS News on the condition of anonymity.

Pakistan has deployed up to 90,000 regular military troops in the border region as it seeks to buttress the U.S.-backed effort to clamp down harder on al Qaeda and the Taliban, who appear to be making a comeback in the area. However, in spite of Pakistan's oft-repeated claim of supporting the U.S. effort, U.S. officials have warned that Pakistan needs to intensify its hunt for militants in the area where they say al Qaeda has consolidated its presence in the last couple of years.

Farhan Bokhari has been covering southeast Asia for several large European news organizations for 16 years. Based in Islamabad, his focus is security issues, in particular al Qaeda and the regional aspects of the global fight against terrorism.