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Pakistan peace talks at risk after Mehsud's death

By Ians

Islamabad, Nov 2: The death of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone attack on Friday derailed the government's plan to hold peace talks with Taliban militants.

Mehsud was killed along with five senior leaders of the militant group when US drones fired missiles on a compound and their vehicles in Pakistan's North Waziristan, reported Xinhua.

The Taliban leaders came under attack after they held consultations ahead of the proposed peace talks with the government.

Latest reports suggest that nearly 20 Taliban figures, who had gathered at the compound, were killed in the attack.

Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan accused the US of sabotaging the government effort to initiate peace talks.

He said a three-member government negotiating team was scheduled to go to Waziristan for "exploratory talks" with the Taliban on Saturday. However, the government cancelled the talks due to the strike.

In early June, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) withdrew its dialogue offer to the government after a US drone killed the group's deputy chief Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud.

Taliban leaders from Mehsud tribe have so far held the group's top positions since it was founded in 2007 by Baitullah Mehsud who united all splinter groups.

Hakimullah Mehsud was made the TTP chief in August 2009 after a US drone strike killed Baitullah along with his wife in Waziristan.

Expert on tribal affairs Mehmood Shah said that the peace talks would be postponed as it depended on the new TTP leadership.

Political analyst Ikram Sehgal said Mehsud's death was a serious setback for the proposed peace dialogue and his killing was seen as a huge blow to the TTP.

Senior political leaders also angrily reacted to Friday's drone strike when the government and the TTP were set to enter into the long awaited peace talks aimed at putting an end to the bloodshed.

Imran Khan, leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, said that the US does not want peace process in Pakistan.

He added that his government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province will block supplies bound for NATO-led troops in Afghanistan after approval of a resolution in the provincial assembly.

Jamiat ulema-e-Islam, a powerful Islamic party, condemned the TTP chief's killing and held the US responsible for the failure of the peace process.

Mehsud's death has also raised serious concerns about Taliban revenge attacks as the group had carried out such attacks in the past. The Pakistan government took extra security measures shortly after his death.

Hakimullah Mehsud was the third senior Taliban leader killed in US drone strikes this year.

Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud, the TTP deputy chief, was killed in a US air raid in North Waziristan on May 29, 2013. Maulvi Nazir, chief of his own faction of the Taliban, was killed in South Waziristan Jan 2, 2013.


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