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Pro-Taleban Militants in Pakistan Free Four Soldiers, Extend Cease-fire by a Month

Pakistani officials say pro-Taleban militants in a semi-autonomous tribal region bordering Afghanistan have freed four soldiers taken hostage in April and extended a cease-fire by another month.

The move came a day after Pakistan released 32 men who had been in jail from five months to two years on suspicion of involvement in attacks on security forces in North Waziristan.

In June, the militants called a month-long cease-fire to give time for tribal elders to broker a settlement to end the bloodshed in the region.

The rebels also had a number of demands, including the withdrawal of army troops from new checkpoints and replacing them with tribal police, and the release of tribesmen detained during military operations.

Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in the war against terrorism. Taleban and al-Qaida militants have been using the rugged border dividing Afghanistan and Pakistan as their hideout. It is believed that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden also is hiding in the region.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has warned the militants to leave or risk being killed.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.