Seventeen Christians were abducted by armed militants in Pakistan

Islamabad: Seventeen Christians were abducted by armed militants in northwest Pakistan on Saturday and held them briefly before being freed unharmed early today in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan, police said.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the kidnapping of members of the minority community and assured the National Assembly that a thorough investigation will be conducted to bring those responsible to justice.

Police said militants stormed a house in Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), and held the Christians who were part of a group that had gathered last night for a prayer service.

The unidentified militants, who came in about 10 vehicles, assaulted members of the gathering before taking away 17 of them to the tribal Khyber Agency bordering Afghanistan.

No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping but police and Christian leaders suspected some militants groups were behind the incident. Two militant groups, Lashkar-e-Islam and Ansar-ul-Islam, are active in the Khyber tribal region near Peshawar.

Rehman Malik, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Interior Affairs, told the National Assembly today that the militants freed the abducted Christians this morning and handed them over to authorities in Bara, a major town in Khyber Agency.

Earlier, several Christian leaders had said 31 members of their community had been kidnapped. The incident created panic in Benarasabad, a suburb of Peshawar that is home to around 350 Christian families.

NWFP Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti suspended several police officers for their failure to foil the kidnapping.

PTI

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