ISLAMABAD -- Taliban militants armed with rockets, grenades and automatic weapons abducted at least 400 students, staff and relatives driving away from a boy's school in a northwest Pakistani tribal region on Monday, police and a witness said.
The brazen abduction came amid rising militant violence in Pakistan's tribal belt _ actions the military says are partly aimed at distracting it from its offensive against the Taliban in the nearby Swat Valley.
Police were negotiating with the Taliban via tribal elders to release of the captives taken in North Waziristan, said Mirza Mohammad Jihadi, an adviser to the prime minister. He said around 500 people were taken and that they were being held in the Bakka Khel area.
Details were still emerging late Monday about what happened, and much was murky.
Police official Meer Sardar said the abduction occurred about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Razmak Cadet College in North Waziristan. The people were leaving the school area after they were warned to get out in a phone call from a man they believed to be a political official, Sardar said, citing accounts from a group of 17 who managed to get away.
Please pray urgently for the safety of these hostages. More details as they become available.