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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pakistani Taliban declare nationwide cease-fire


The Pakistani Taliban has declared a cease-fire to encourage nascent peace talks with the government, a senior commanders said, a move that appears to show the deadly group’s willingness to strike a deal with state. The commander said the cease-fire has been in effect for the past month and was valid throughout the country. ”We are not attacking the Pakistan army and government installations because of the peace process,” he said late Monday. The commander is close to Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not the official spokesman of the insurgent network. His statement adds credence to recent announcements by anonymous Taliban and intelligence officials that government intermediaries recently met Taliban commanders to talk about a possible peace deal. The government has not officially commented, and on Tuesday the Pakistani army denied it was involved in any talks. The Pakistan Taliban, an umbrella grouping of militants allied with al-Qaida and based in the northwest close to the Afghan border, has been behind many of the scores of bloody suicide attacks around Pakistan over the last 4 1/2 years. At least 35,000 people have been killed in the bloodshed. The United States wants Pakistan to keep the pressure on insurgents and would likely be concerned about any effort to strike a deal. Many of its fiercest foes in Afghanistan, as well as al-Qaida operatives from around the world, live alongside the Pakistan Taliban in North Waziristan. Much remains unclear about the nature of the talks and their potential. Both the army and the militants have engaged in misinformation before. Some reports have said any deal would only cover one region in the northwest, South Waziristan, but could be extended. The Pakistan Taliban is believed to be divided. Many of its leaders and foot soldiers have been killed in US drone attacks and Pakistani army offensives over the last few years. Some faction and allied groups are still committed to war against the state, and there been several insurgent attacks over the last month.

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