Pakistani Taliban make demands before peace talks
PESHAWAR, Pakistan- AP

The Pakistani Taliban demanded Sunday that the government release militant prisoners and begin withdrawing troops from the group’s tribal sanctuary before they will participate in peace talks, raising doubts about prospects for negotiations.

The demands came as a roadside bomb killed a major general and two other soldiers as they were riding in a vehicle in the country’s northwest, the military said. The general was the top army commander in an area of the northwest containing the Swat Valley, where the military carried out a major offensive against the Taliban in 2009.

The Taliban’s leadership council decided on the need for confidence building measures ahead of peace talks while meeting to discuss the government’s offer to hold negotiations, said the group’s spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid.

“The Taliban have been deceived in the past in the name of peace, so the government will have to take some steps before the start of talks to assure the Taliban that the government is serious about the peace process,” Shahid told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Intelligence officials and militant commanders said the Taliban and the army exchanged a small number of prisoners last week as a confidence building measure ahead of talks, but the army denied the swap.

 

The army has carried out scores of operations against the Taliban in the tribal region, but the militants have proven resilient and continue to carry out regular attacks.

The roadside bomb that killed Maj. Gen. Sanaullah Niazi and two other soldiers Sunday was planted near the Afghan border in Upper Dir district, the military said. Upper Dir and the Swat Valley, both of which were under his command, are located in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Also Sunday, a roadside bomb killed one soldier and wounded another in the North Waziristan tribal area, the main sanctuary for Taliban and al-Qaida militants in the country.

On Saturday night, militants ambushed a group of tribal policemen riding in a vehicle near the northwest town of Bannu, killing two of them and wounding four others.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

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