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Pakistan halts air strikes against Taliban

Pakistan's government has suspended air strikes against Taliban militants. The decision followed a breakthrough agreement with the insurgent group to resume peace talks.

A day after the Talibani Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire, the Pakistani government reciprocated with the announcement of a halt to its airstrikes against the Islamist insurgent group.

"After the positive announcement yesterday by the Taliban, the government has decided to suspend the air strikes," Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said in a statement on Sunday.

However, there were reports of continued unrest in the country's northwest region despite the truce. According to news agency DPA, five extremists were killed in a helicopter raid on Sunday carried out by the Pakistani military. The assault occurred near Bara, which lies in the Khyber tribal region. The military offensive also included the targeting of a Taliban leader's hideout.

On Saturday, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) announced it had reinitiated peace talks with the government in Islamabad "with sincerity and for good purpose," according to the group's spokesperson, Shahidullah Shahid.

The lead negotiator for the Pakistani government, Irfan Sadiqui, hailed the decision as a "breakthrough."

The TTP is fighting to unseat Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government and establish its own Islamic rule of law in the country in a years-long conflict that has killed thousands of people. The group, which doesn't recognize the Pakistani constitution, has also called for the removal of all military forces in tribal areas and an end to US drone strikes.

Peace talks between the two groups were suspended in February in the wake of a deadly attack on Pakistan's military, which left 23 people dead.

kms/dr (AFP, dpa)

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