Pakistan Taliban extend truce for more talks with government

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Pakistani Taliban on Wednesday said they are extending a cease-fire with the government until May 30, after the two sides held an initial round of talks in neighboring Afghanistan.

In a statement, Mohammad Khurasani, the spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan said the talks were being facilitated by Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers. Afghan authorities confirmed the talks and extension of the cease-fire.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan tries its best for the continuation and success of the negotiations,“ Afghan government spokesman Bilal Karimi said.

The TTP is separate but allied with Afghanistan’s Taliban, who seized power in their country last August. The TTP have long fought for stricter enforcement of Islamic laws in Pakistan, the release of their members in government custody, and a reduction of military presence in the country’s tribal regions. They have been emboldened by the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan.

Khurasani said the TTP agreed to extend the cease-fire, which began on May 10, at the request of a delegation of Pakistani tribal elders who separately met with the TTP this week. He provided no further details.

There was also no immediate comment from the military or government of Pakistan, although officials earlier acknowledged dispatching a delegation to Kabul for talks with the TTP.

The TTP held similar talks with Pakistan in November at the request of Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers, who have encouraged both sides to reach a peace agreement. Then, both sides had also agreed to a month-long ceasefire for talks, held when when former Prime Minister Imran Khan was in power.

TTP has been behind numerous attacks on Pakistani security forces and civilians over the last 15 years. A faction of the militant group was also behind a deadly 2014 attack on an army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar that killed 147 people, mostly schoolchildren.

Islamabad wants Kabul to act against those who are using the Afghan soil for attacks inside Pakistan. Before the Taliban came into power in Afghanistan, Islamabad and Kabul often blamed each other for sheltering militants. Pakistan now says it has completed 93% of a fence being constructed along the border with Afghanistan to prevent cross-border militant attacks.

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Associated Press Writer Rahim Faiez contributed to this story from Islamabad.

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