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Attack by gunmen in Pakistan kills nine, threatens peace talks

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Unknown gunmen killed nine people on the outskirts of this provincial capital early Wednesday in an attack that dealt another blow to nascent peace talks between the Pakistani government and banned Islamist militants.

Most of the victims were members of the same family, which had belonged to a local peace committee that helped law enforcement agencies track and thwart the movements of militant groups in the area, police said.

It was the latest in a series of bloody attacks in Peshawar this week that have coincided with the Pakistani government’s efforts to open peace talks with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, also known as the Pakistani Taliban.

The assault occurred in the Mashokhel area of Peshawar district, adjacent to the Khyber Agency tribal area, where the Pakistani government exercises little control. Residents said a group of militants attacked a residential compound belonging to Pir Israr Shah.

They said that the attackers rounded up the women and children in the family and kept them in the house while taking the males outside. The attackers tied the men’s hands and then opened fire on them, said Derwish Khan, a resident of the area.

Later, the attackers lobbed hand grenades at the bodies and blew up the mud house with rocket launchers, residents said.

A police official estimated that there were about 25 attackers and said they were armed with rocket launchers and assault rifles. He said militants had killed another member of the same family who was serving in the police about six monts ago.

Tela Muhammad, another resident, said locals had asked the provincial government to improve security and stop the militants’ activities, but that no action had been taken so far.

After a surge in violence in Peshawar and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in 2008, authorities helped establish local peace committees in an effort to curtail the insurgents’ activities in rural and semi-urban areas.

The police department provided guns and ammunition to peace committee volunteers who conducted patrols in their areas. Committee members, however, said the police and government had withdrawn their support in recent years, allowing militants to retaliate against them.

Ali is a special correspondent.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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