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Taliban suspend peace talks with government

Video by Sonia DRIDI , Luke SHRAGO

Latest update : 2009-04-27

Pakistani troops have killed 20 militants in a ground and air operation against the Taliban in the country's troubled northwest, the military said. Troops and Taliban were at a stalemate, with the latter insisting the forces suspend their offensive.

AFP - Talks between the Pakistan Taliban and the government over the Swat valley have been suspended until the army halts its latest operation against militants, a negotiator said on Monday.

The Pakistan military launched a new offensive against Taliban militants in the northwest of the country on Sunday after coming under US pressure to stop the advance of the extremists in the region.

"Our council of leaders met on Sunday night and decided to suspend peace negotiations with the government in North West Frontier Province," said a spokesman for a cleric who negotiated a peace deal between the two sides in February.

"We, however, still adhere to the February deal," that put three million people under sharia law, spokesman Ameer Izzat Khan told AFP.

The military said Sunday that Frontier Corps paramilitary launched an operation against the Taliban in Lower Dir after militants killed a soldier in a deadly ambush.

It said a "number" of militants had been killed and that the dead bodies of 26 insurgents had been found.

Lower Dir is 75 kilometres (46 miles) west of Swat, once a popular ski resort frequented by Westerners but where the government has effectively lost control after a violent two-year Taliban campaign to enforce sharia law.

Like Swat, Lower Dir is part of Malakand, where President Asif Ali Zardari has authorised an agreement with the Taliban that saw them promise to lay down their arms in exchange for sharia courts.

Date created : 2009-04-27

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