Militants abduct two Pakistani journalists

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – Al Qaeda-linked militants have abducted two Pakistani journalists who the militants accused of snooping on their members and positions near the Afghan border.

The militants detained freelance reporter Pir Zubair Shah and photographer Akhtar Soomro in Ziarat village in the Mohmand region late on Thursday.

“We detained them because they were secretly taking pictures of our people and places. Now, our council will meet and decide what to do,” Asad, a spokesman for Pakistani Taliban, said by telephone on Friday.

Pakistani Taliban militants linked to al Qaeda have taken control of swathes of territory in northwestern Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtun regions along the Afghan border, including parts of Mohmand.

Intermediaries were trying to get the reporters released, said a senior government officer.

“We’re doing our best. We’ve sent a delegation of tribal elders to the kidnappers to get them released,” said the official, who declined to be identified.

The semi-autonomous tribal regions have never come under the full control of any government and security forces rarely entered the area before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Since then, under pressure from the United States to root militants out of sanctuaries from where they attack into Afghanistan, the government has been trying to extend its writ along the border.

But a succession of military offensives and peace pacts has failed to stem the militants’ growing strength.

Several Pakistani reporters covering the conflict have been killed. The government does not let foreign reporters into the tribal areas except on occasional trips with the military.

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