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Dozens of Pakistani schoolboys reportedly still held hostage

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — At least 46 schoolboys reportedly remained in the custody of militants Tuesday in Pakistan's lawless Waziristan area after a mass abduction Monday.

The army announced Tuesday that it had freed 71 students and nine staff members from Razmak Cadet College after a clash with the armed abductors. However, a local official in Waziristan, who couldn't be named because he isn't authorized to speak to journalists, claimed that 46 boys and two teachers were still in captivity.

The army's chief spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said that the military had intercepted the kidnappers Tuesday morning while they were taking the children from North Waziristan, in the country's tribal area, toward South Waziristan, which is the stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban, as well as al Qaida.

It remained unclear how many students were taken Monday evening. Some 500 were being driven in a convoy from their school in North Waziristan to the nearest town outside the tribal area when they were ambushed. In the confusion, reports conflicted on now many were abducted and how many got away.

No claim of responsibility for the kidnapping has been made so far but it's thought that the armed group that took them is either Taliban or a criminal gang closely associated with the Taliban.

(Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

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