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Pakistan demands ceasefire from Taleban Bid to restart talks as another 2 soldiers killed

 ISLAMABAD, Feb 18, (AFP): Pakistan government mediators Tuesday demanded a ceasefire from the Taleban before they resume peace talks as another two soldiers were killed in separate attacks. A faction of the insurgent group announced on Sunday they had killed 23 kidnapped soldiers, prompting condemnation from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the cancellation of scheduled peace talks on Monday.

Following a meeting on Tuesday in Islamabad, the government negotiators briefed the prime minister and said they had received a “discouraging response” since talks were announced on Jan 29. “The prime minister was told that the committee was unable to carry forward the dialogue process in the absence of an announcement by the Taleban ceasing violent activities and then implementing the decision,” a statement said. Militants killed an army major near the northwestern city of Peshawar on Tuesday, and a soldier died in a separate border post attack overnight in lawless South Waziristan, security officials said. Separately gunman on a motorcycle shot and wounded a driver who was carrying two staff members of French aid agency ACTED in a car in the northwestern garrison town of Kohat, police said.

Excluding the kidnapped soldiers, some 60 people have died in Islamist-linked violence since Prime Minister Sharif announced the peace talks on Jan 29. A senior Taleban negotiator told AFP the militant group was working towards a ceasefire which might have been agreed at Monday’s cancelled meeting. “The issue was on top of Monday’s meeting between the two committees, which was called off by government negotiators,” Professor Muhammad Ibrahim said. “There was a strong possibility that we could have agreed on a ceasefire had the meeting taken place,” Ibrahim added. He said he had spoken to senior Taleban commander Azam Tariq and we “are making efforts for resumption of the stalled talks”. Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told AFP that “we are in contact with all Taleban groups on the issue of ceasefire and hope to reach a decision pretty soon”. He said implementing a ceasefire would “not be very difficult”.

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