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Suicide bomber claims lives near military HQ in Pakistan

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a deadly attack near Pakistan's military headquarters in Islamabad's twin city, Rawalpindi. Officials have reported several fatalities linked to the suicide bombing.

At least nine people were killed and 14 people wounded in Rawalpindi on Monday when a suicide bomber detonated explosives at a local marketplace, according to local authorities. The blast occurred roughly one kilometer (0.6 miles) away from Pakistan's military headquarters.

The marketplace had been considered one of the safest areas of the city, according to Rawalpindi police chief Akhtar Hayat Lalika.

Taliban spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid later claimed responsibility for the attack.

Rawalpindi lies about nine kilometers (5.6 miles) south of the country's capital city, Islamabad.

The bombing came one day after a Taliban bomb attack left 20 Pakistani soldiers dead in North Waziristan, the country's restive northwestern region.

The Taliban vowed to increase attacks following the deaths of its leader Hakimullah Mehsud and deputy Waliur Rehman, both of whom were killed in US drone attacks at the end of last year. The loss had also prompted the militant group to refuse to enter into negotiations with Pakistan's new government under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who it had accused of supporting the US attack.

However, the AFP news agency reported on Monday that Taliban spokesperson Shahid had said it was "ready for meaningful negotiations despite facing huge leadership losses if the government proves its authority and sincerity" by following through with promises to bring an end to drone attacks and its military presence in tribal areas.

The Pakistani military has been fighting for years in the tribal areas against militants who want to overthrow the government and establish an ultraconservative Islamic state across Pakistan.

kms/pfd (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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