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Central & South Asia

Pakistan halts talks with Taliban

The announcement comes after Pakistani jets bombed Taliban hideouts in the country's northwest, killing at least 15.

Last updated: 20 Feb 2014 18:11
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The Pakistani government had engaged Pakistani Taliban in preliminary peace talks [EPA]

Pakistan has suspended peace talks with Pakistani Taliban after attacks against the military by the armed group, the country's the interior minister said.

"We have decided not to go ahead with talks for now," Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Pakistani interior minister, told local media in the capital of Islamabad on Thursday.

The decision came hours after Pakistani fighter jets had bombed suspected Taliban hideouts in a tribal area on the Afghan border, killing at least 15 people, security officials said.

"Forces have the right to retaliate in self-defence and they will exercise that." the interior minister said.

Talks break down

The administration of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who came to power last year promising to find a negotiated peace with the Taliban, has been trying to engage the group in talks.

But as the talks broke down this week, the air strikes may herald a broader military offensive in North Waziristan, a region where many armed groups are based.

The army publicly supports Sharif's call for talks but, in private, senior officers have expressed frustration, giving rise to talk that the military was waiting for an excuse to mount an armed operation.

The air strikes, launched in the morning, also came just hours after Pakistan's army said more than 100 soldiers had been killed by Taliban fighters in the past five months, a rare admission of mass casualties.

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