Pro-govt Taliban group scraps peace deal, 24 killed

 A ‘pro-government’ Taliban faction in Pakistan’s tribal belt scrapped a 16-month-old truce with the authorities, stoking fears of further unrest as the military stepped up its offensive in the restive region where at least 24 militants were killed on Tuesday.

The Taliban faction led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, which operates in North Waziristan Agency, said it was abandoning the peace deal struck in February last year.

Ahmadullah Ahmadi, a spokesman for the faction, told reporters on phone that the decision was prompted by army operations and US drone attacks in the region.

The announcement came two days after an attack on a military convoy in North Waziristan on Sunday. The army said 16 soldiers, including three officers, were killed in the attack though media reports put the toll at 30.

The peace deal had kept the region relatively peaceful, compared to the adjacent South Waziristan Agency, where the Army is preparing for a push against the stronghold of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud. Gul Bahadur faction was perceived as being “pro-government” till now.

Clashes continued over the past 24 hours in Dir district and the nearby Swat valley, where the army claims its operation against the Taliban is winding down. The military said in a statement that security forces had killed 18 militants and apprehended 23 others in Swat and Dir.

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