(AFP) – Mar 1, 2010
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Two Sikhs kidnapped for ransom in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border were recovered alive Monday and are under the protection of Pakistani soldiers, the military said.
In a statement it said that security forces had recovered the two between the Orakzai and Khyber districts in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt, after they were abducted by "terrorists" in Khyber.
The tribal belt has been branded an Al-Qaeda headquarters by Washington.
The army said "some miscreants" were killed in Monday's encounter, but released no further details of the circumstances in which the Sikhs were freed.
The two Sikhs were part of a trio snatched by gunmen in hopes of receiving a ransom in the town of Bara in late January, officials said.
The third Sikh, Jaspal Singh, was beheaded after relatives failed to pay a ransom. His body was found dumped in Orakzai last month.
Pakistan's Sikh and Hindu communities are tiny. In the last year, hundreds have fled their homes after receiving death threats from the Taliban and other militant groups in the increasingly unstable northwest.
Most Sikhs and Hindus living in Khyber pay annual protection to the local militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, a Sikh community member has said, blaming the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for the beheading.
TTP has become the most dangerous militant group operating in Pakistan, where a wave of suicide and other bomb attacks carried out by Islamist militants have killed more than 3,000 people since July 2007.
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