Islamabad : Suspected Islamist militants have abducted nine government officials, including six women, at gunpoint on the Bannu-Miranshah highway in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), media reports said Sunday.
Officials being abducted is common, but this is the first time women have been taken hostage – a practice looked down upon in the tribal code of conduct called Pashtunwali.
Security sources said over 30 masked gunmen stopped the government officials' vehicle near Nawrak, while they were heading late Friday to Miranshah, the centre of North Waziristan tribal region.
"The officials were coming from Peshawar on a special survey mission to assess development projects in the region. They were accompanied by guards who could do little to protect them," an official said on condition of anonymity.
The militants took away wireless communication equipment and six Kalashnikov rifles from the guards, who were told to leave with a warning: "Don't look back."
"We are concerned for the women hostages," the official was quoted as saying by Daily Times.
He said the abducted officials had been sent to the region to carry out a survey for building new schools, roads and hospitals. "This is what militants don't like," the official added.
Militants had some weeks ago killed a young doctor who had come to administer vaccines to children, as modern medicine is looked upon with suspicion.
Arbab Arif, security chief for the North Waziristan tribal region, said they had engaged tribal elders of the area for the release of the hostages.
Meanwhile, police seized three jackets intended for use in suicide attacks from a Lahore-bound bus Saturday.
District Police Officer Mazharul Haq Kakakhel told Daily Times that police checked the bus on a tip-off, and found the jackets packed in luggage. They had explosive bars and detonators. According to the official, each jacket contained six rocket shells filled with plastic explosives.