Explosion kills 12 in Kohat; army strikes kill 38 Taliban

* 12 more injured as bomb planted in a cooking oil container explodes * Fighter jets pound Taliban hideouts in Tirah Valley; IED-making factories, explosives destroyed
Explosion kills 12 in Kohat;  army strikes kill 38 Taliban

PESHAWAR: A bomb planted near a bus stop killed 12 people, including two women and a child, in Kohat on Sunday, police said.
They said 12 more were injured when the bomb went off in Kohat in the troubled province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Police said around five kilogrammes of explosive were planted in a cooking oil container and placed near the bus stop in the city centre before being detonated remotely.
District police chief Salim Khan Marwat gave the death toll, which rose from 10 after two victims died of their injuries in a Peshawar hospital.
The bomb exploded near police and other government offices. It was also close to a busy marketplace and an area where many Shias live.
But authorities said it was too early to comment on the possible target.
The province borders lawless tribal areas where al Qaeda and Taliban-led militants have sanctuaries.
The attack came as Pakistani fighter jets launched air strikes on militant hideouts in the northwest, killing at least 38 people, according to officials, in the latest retaliation for attacks by the insurgents that have derailed peace talks.
The early morning strikes made on militant hideouts in the Tirah valley of the Khyber tribal district were the third in the series of raids by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) since February 20.
They follow the execution of 23 Pakistan soldiers by the Taliban last week, which cast doubts over dialogue initiated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on January 29.
“There are confirmed reports that 38 terrorists including some important commanders were killed,” a statement by the military said, adding that “six hideouts were completely destroyed”. 
Earlier, a senior security official in Islamabad said IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) making factories and explosive material were destroyed. Local administration officials refused to comment, saying it was a matter for the military, and the tolls could not be independently verified as it is difficult for journalists to enter the area.
On Saturday, at least nine militants were killed when Pakistani gunship helicopters pounded Taliban hideouts in Thall village in Hangu district, near the tribal areas where militants linked to the Taliban and al Qaeda have strongholds.
Two days earlier, security officials said they killed over 30 militants including 16 Uzbeks in the air strikes conducted in the northwest, infiltrated by the local and foreign militants.
Peace talks between the Taliban and the government stalled last week due to a recent surge in insurgent attacks and a claim by a Taliban faction that it had killed 23 kidnapped soldiers.
Government mediators have set a Taliban ceasefire as a precondition for another round of talks.
But Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, on Friday blamed Islamabad for the deadlock and urged the state to declare a ceasefire first.
Shahid said the government had started the war when it should have initiated a ceasefire.
“We have been fighting a defensive war for 10 years,” he told a press conference on Friday, adding that the government should stop the operation immediately.
Shahid said that the Taliban still wish to engage in peace dialogue to solve the country’s problems. “We were ready to talks before and are ready now,” he stated.
He also said the government wanted Taliban to accept the constitution of Pakistan through dialogue but this constitution did not have a single Islamic clause in it.
The Taliban’s Friday statement came after the government decided to pull the plug on the peace talks with TTP, as the prime minister and the military leadership decided that “proceeding with the peace talks amid the bombings and slaughter of soldiers would be injustice to terror victims”.
The TTP leadership says it does not accept the constitution of Pakistan and claims that it has the backing of majority of Pakistani clerics.
The TTP, an umbrella grouping of numerous militant factions, has been waging a bloody campaign against the Pakistani state since 2007, carrying out a number of bomb and gun attacks, often on military targets. According to an AFP tally, 86 people have been killed in 17 attacks across the country since January 29, when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced formal talks with the Taliban.

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