PESHAWAR: Warplanes bombed the hideout of a militant leader, killing five insurgents, the military said on Sunday, only a day after the Pakistani Taliban declared a one-month ceasefire to pursue stalled peace talks with the government.
The target of the attack, Mullah Tamanchey, directed a deadly assault against a convoy carrying a polio vaccination team and security forces on Saturday in which 12 people were killed, the military said. “The government is not going to tolerate any act of terror and any act will be replied to,” said a Pakistani security official who asked not to be identified. Hours after the attack on the convoy, the Taliban had said they would observe a one-month ceasefire to try to revive peace talks that failed last month.
It also called on other militant groups to observe the ceasefire. A government negotiator told Reuters they were open to restarting peace talks as long as the Taliban and its affiliates honoured the ceasefire. Tahir Ashrafi, head of the country’s largest alliance of clerics, said that the Taliban should release kidnap victims, safeguard polio workers and produce the bodies of slain paramilitary forces to demonstrate their sincerity.
The government should release suspected militants from prison if there was no evidence against them, he said. The Pakistani Taliban says it is fighting to overthrow the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and replace it with a state ruled under Islamic law. Nawaz has been pursuing peace talks since he was elected in May. Soon after the talks finally began on February 6 the Taliban bombed a police bus in Karachi, killing 13 people.
The talks foundered days later when a Taliban faction claimed to have killed 23 paramilitary forces. The same night the military began bombing areas in the northwest that it said were militant hideouts. In recent weeks speculation has been mounting that the military would launch a ground operation in North Waziristan, a tribal region along the border with Afghanistan. US generals serving in Afghanistan have often complained that Pakistan, while fighting the Pakistani Taliban, has allowed other militant groups to have safe havens in its tribal regions.
Mullah Tamanchey, the target of Sunday’s bombing, is the leader of a small militant faction affiliated with the Taliban and opposed polio vaccination. Meanwhile, a Taliban commander was killed in firing at a gathering in Dera Ismail Khan on Sunday. According to police, terrorists fired on a gathering in Golachi area of Dera Ismail Khan. In retaliatory fire by the other side, one of the terrorists was killed. Police said the slain terrorist was identified as Aslam Gandapar, a local Taliban commander.
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