Pakistan bombs militant hideout

Reuters, PESHAWAR, Pakistan

Mon, Mar 03, 2014 - Page 5

The Pakistani military said it had bombed the hideout of a militant leader yesterday, killing five insurgents, only a day after the 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,” a Pakistani security official said.

Hours after the attack on the convoy, the Taliban 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 said they were open to restarting peace talks as long as the Taliban and its affiliates honored the ceasefire.

The Pakistani Taliban, an alliance of militant groups, says it is fighting to overthrow the democratically elected government of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and replace it with a state ruled under strict Islamic law.

Sharif has been pursuing peace talks since he was elected in May last year.

Soon after the talks finally began on Feb. 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 that is a stronghold for the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Some analysts have speculated that the Taliban’s offer of a ceasefire is aimed at stalling such an operation.

Mullah Tamanchey, the target of yesterday’s bombing, is the leader of a small militia affiliated with the Taliban and opposed polio vaccination.

Some militants say the health campaign is a cover for spying or a plot to sterilize Muslims.