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9 anti-Taliban fighters killed execution-style in Pakistan

9 anti-Taliban fighters killed execution-style in Pakistan
Pakistani officials inspect the site where assailants targeted the Peshawar home of an anti-Taliban militia leader. Nine men were killed. (Arshad Arbab / European Pressphoto Agency)

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Nine members of an anti-Taliban militia were killed execution-style at a house on the outskirts of this troubled provincial capital, in the latest violence to mar the Pakistani government's effort to open peace talks with outlawed Islamist militants.

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

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The militias were established in 2008 after a surge in militant activity in Peshawar and other parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, with authorities providing guns and ammunition to 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 Committee members, however, said the police and government had withdrawn their support in recent years, allowing militants to retaliate against them.

The attack Wednesday was one of the deadliest in a week that has seen some of the worst violence in Peshawar in months. A day earlier, grenades exploded in a movie theater known for showing pornographic films, killing 11 people and wounding 17.

Though no group immediately claimed responsibility for either attack, analysts said the violence indicated that some elements of the Pakistani Taliban — the federation of Islamist groups whose central leadership has agreed to begin peace talks with the government — were trying to spoil negotiations.

"There are some outfits who still continue their activities without the permission of the high command," said Mahmood Shah, a retired brigadier and former secretary of home and tribal affairs.

Shah, who helped broker a 2004 truce between the government and militant groups in the North Waziristan tribal area, has opposed talks with the Pakistani Taliban, which he says lost commanders in recent airstrikes and is trying to reorganize.

"I think this is a time-buying tactic by the Taliban to strengthen their position," Shah said.

The killings Wednesday occurred in the Mashokhel area of Peshawar, adjacent to the Khyber Agency tribal area, where the government has little control. Residents said a group of militants attacked a residential compound belonging to Pir Israr Shah, leader of one of the anti-Taliban militias.

They said the attackers rounded up the women and children in the family and kept them in the house while the males were taken outside. Assailants tied the men's hands and then opened fire on them, said Derwish Khan, a resident.

The attackers later lobbed grenades at the bodies and blew up the mud house with rocket launchers, residents said. The women and children were not killed.

A police official estimated there were 25 attackers and said they were also armed with assault rifles. He said that about six months ago, militants killed a member of the family who was serving with the police.

Special correspondent Ali reported from Peshawar and Times staff writer Bengali from Mumbai, India.

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