KHYBER AGENCY  : Eleven polio workers abducted by unknown militants a couple of days ago from Bara were released on Tuesday.

Assistant Political (APA) Bara Nasir Khan confirmed it and said that the kidnapped workers were released from Tirah valley.

Qasim Khan, who was kidnapped along with ten other colleagues, said that after kidnapping they were shifted to Tirah valley and were brought before a consultative body of the militants for investigation. “We presented our case and told them that security forces forced us to administer anti-polio drops to children,” Qasim remarked. He said after the approval of militants body, they were set free unconditionally.

Reuters adds: They were abducted just after a team giving anti-polio vaccinations had left a school and the militants might have mistaken them for the polio team, said Khyber official Niaz Ahmad Khan. They were moved to an area controlled by militant leader Mangal Bagh and his Taliban-affiliated group, Lashkar-e-Islam.

Khan said a group of tribal elders, known as a jirga, was sent to secure the teachers’ release.

“The militants cooperated with the jirga members and freed all the abducted teachers,” said Khan adding, “The polio workers have been released in Tirah valley and will reach Peshawar by Wednesday (today).”

A tribal elder, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the militants freed the teachers on condition that the government should stop sending polio teams to the area.

Gunmen frequently attack polio vaccination workers, accusing them of being Western spies and part of a plot to sterilise Muslims.

A global eradication campaign has reduced polio cases by 99.9 per cent in the last three decades, but it remains endemic in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The disease is highly infectious and can cause irreversible paralysis.

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio is still endemic. But efforts to stamp out the crippling disease have been hit by repeated attacks, often fatal on health teams.