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Pakistani Taliban withdraw peace talk offer

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 18, 2013 at 2:13 pm •  Published: March 18, 2013

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — The Pakistani Taliban on Monday withdrew their offer of holding peace talks with the government, saying that the authorities were not serious about following through with negotiations.

The Taliban statement came as a pair of suicide bombers attacked a court complex in the northwestern city of Peshawar. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

One of the attackers was shot to death, but the other detonated his explosives in a packed courtroom, killing four people and wounding more than 40 in the attack.

The Taliban have been waging a bloody insurgency against the government for more than five years, killing thousands of people.

The group first said it was open to negotiations at the end of last year in a letter sent to a local newspaper and a video released by Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

Rehman Malik, who was interior minister until the government's term ended over the weekend, said in February that Islamabad was ready to hold peace talks, and appeared to drop an earlier demand that the Taliban lay down their weapons and renounce violence before negotiations — a condition rejected by the militants.

Politicians from the country's main political parties also called for peace talks with the Taliban in February, at a meeting held in Islamabad to discuss the issue.

But Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said in a video sent to reporters on Monday that the group "has temporarily postponed the offer of negotiations" after an "unserious response" by the government.

He accused the army of continuing its war against the Taliban in order to receive military aid from the United States.

"Generals and politicians are sacrificing the country for their own interests," said Ahsan.

He called on Pakistanis to boycott national elections in May, saying Islamic law should be enforced instead.

"If this system is not rejected, the long, dark night of oppression will linger," said Ahsan.

He advised people to avoid rallies by the Pakistan People's Party, which led the latest government, and by two other parties that have strongly opposed the militants, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Awami National Party.

The Taliban's warning raises the worrying prospect of deadly violence in the run-up to the election. A caretaker government is slated to take over and rule the country until elections are held.

The militants in Peshawar attacked the back of the court compound Monday and were confronted by three police guards, said police officer Masood Afridi. The militants shot and wounded the policemen, but not before one of the guards gunned down one of the suicide bombers.

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