18 Feb 2014

Pakistan peace talks in crisis

12:11 pm on 18 February 2014

Peace talks between the Pakistani government and Taliban militants have stalled after a faction of the insurgents said it had killed 23 kidnapped soldiers.

A four-member government negotiation team immediately pulled out of peace talks with their Taliban counterparts scheduled for Monday in the northwestern town of Akora Khattak, AFP reports.

A faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan from the northwestern Mohmand district says it killed the 23 Frontier Corps paramilitaries to avenge militants who had died in custody.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has condemned as "heinous" the execution.

Mr Sharif says Pakistan "cannot afford such bloodshed" and lamented that previous attempts to start dialogue were "sabotaged whenever it reached an encouraging stage".

He announced the start of talks with the Taliban on 29 January to "give peace another chance" following a seven-year insurgency that has claimed nearly 7000 lives.

Observers says the two sides are far apart on crucial issues and some experts doubt whether Taliban leaders are able to control the whole organisation, in which some factions are believed to be opposed to peace.

Excluding the soldiers, some 60 people have died in Islamist-linked violence since the talks began.

Government negotiators declared Monday's scheduled talks to be "purposeless" after the "sad and condemnable" murders.