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Afghan Gunmen Hijack School Bus, Demand Food

February 20, 1994

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Three Afghans demanding food for their war-ravaged homeland hijacked a busload of school children at gunpoint Sunday.

The gunmen forced the bus to drive 120 miles from the northwestern city of Peshawar to Islamabad, the capital.

After several hours of negotiations outside the parliament building, the gunmen released 55 children. They still held 19 children, six teachers and 12 clerical workers.

Interior Minister Nasrullah Babaar, who negotiated with the gunman at the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad, said no one had been hurt and he expected the crisis to be resolved peacefully.

″Everyone is relaxed. I’m not worried,″ he told journalists after emerging from the Afghan Embassy. ″I promised them safe passage (to Afghanistan) and a helicopter.″

The three kidnappers were demanding 15 million rupees $500,000 and ″truckloads of food″ for Afghanistan, where heavy factional fighting has led to food shortages in the capital of Kabul.

The children, who were being dropped off at school when the bus was hijacked, range in age from five to 13.

Pakistan closed its border with Afghanistan several weeks ago and refused to let Afghans fleeing factional fighting in Kabul to seek asylum.

Pakistani officials say the border was closed to prevent another influx of refugees into Pakistan, which gave refuge to about 3 million Afghans during the 13-year insurgency against the communist government ousted in 1992.

The International Committee for the Red Cross has warned that food supplies for at least 50,000 homeless people in Kabul could run out within a week.

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