Pakistan’s Taliban said that it abducted 25 boys of the Mamund tribe as a form of punishment against pro-government tribesmen who have been fighting against the militants.

The boys and teenagers were kidnapped on Thursday during a picnic outing during the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holidays in the Bajaur tribal region next to the Afghan border.

This area is wild and lawless and is believed to be a hiding place for hundreds of terrorists and militants from various groups.

According to BBC, the boys family members as well as Mamund tribal elders are seeking to secure the boys’ freedom.

Reportedly, the Taliban has demanded the release of some of its imprisoned colleagues in Pakistani prisons in exchange for the boys’ release.

Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the Taliban, told local media that the abduction had been planned well in advance. He also said the fate of the boys would depend on the decision of the Taliban ‘Shura,’ or committee, from Bajaur. He also denied that any of the hostages were children.

However, an eyewitness told BBC that most of the boys were under 18, some as young as 10.

The father of one of the boys, believed to be 14 years old, reportedly said: Our family is devastated. All we can do is pray for his safe return.

Mamunds, who are a Pashtun people (the same ethnic group as the Taliban) have nonetheless supported Pakistan government efforts to fight the Taliban in the region.

There are believed to be about 1-million members of the tribe, most of whom live in Pakistan Bajaur Agency, Some Mamund also live across the border in the Marawara District of Kunar Province in Afghanistan.