The seizure of the 30 security personnel followed the killing of three Pakistani army intelligence officers as they returned to Mingora on Monday.

Armed men opened fire on their vehicle leaving them dead at the scene. 

Government officials confirmed the death of the three men, but refused to say which security agency they belonged to.

Retaliation

The security officials were killed in retaliation for the torture of Taliban prisoners in custody, Taliban officials told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.

The admission came shortly after Maulana Fazlullah, a Taliban leader in Pakistan,  had told Al Jazeera in an interview that he had enough suicide bombers to "teach Pakistan a lesson it will not forget".

"Wherever there is the name of Allah we will strike there ... whether its Afghanistan or any other country," he said.

Imran Khan, reporting from Swat valley for Al Jazeera, said that the cleric is said to be behind numerous attacks on Pakistan forces, cross-border raids into Afghanistan and the implementation of a strict Islamic law.

The Pakistani army launched a major offensive in October to clear the area of fighters loyal to Fazlullah, but in May the government signed a peace deal with armed groups in Swat militants, agreeing to gradually pull out troops and introduce an Islamic justice system.

The groups had said they would halt attacks in the region in exchange, but in recent weeks there has been a sharp increase in violence again.

"The government is not honoring the peace agreement with Taliban and the government will be responsible for any consequences," Bakht Ali Khan, a spokesman for one of the groups, told The Associated Press news agency.

"We will take revenge for any action against us."

Confirmation sought

Meanwhile, security officials in Pakistan were seeking confirmation on Tuesday that a senior al-Qaeda expert on chemical and biological weapons had been killed in a  suspected US missile strike.

Umar was previously reported killed in an air raid in January 2006 [AFP]
There was no immediate confirmation from Washington or the US-led coalition in Afghanistan about Monday's strike in the South Waziristan tribal district, which a senior Pakistani official said was thought to have killed Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar.

The Egyptian fighter - who is also known as Abu Khabab al-Masri - has a $5m bounty on his head and is alleged to have trained hundreds of men at camps in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. 

Officials earlier said that three Arab fighters and three Pakistani youths were killed when missiles fired from a suspected US drone hit a house attached to a village mosque.

Residents said that the victims of the air raid were hastily buried in the hours after the attack.

Claims that Umar was killed in another air raid in the Bajaur tribal region in January 2006 turned out to be untrue.

The news came as Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Pakistani prime minister, held his first talks with George Bush, the US president, on how to tackle fighters based in the lawless tribal zones.

Gilani, whose new government has been facing intense US pressure to crack down on the fighters, urged the US not to act "unilaterally" against the Taliban in his country.