PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Militants killed nine members of an anti-Taliban militia on Wednesday in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar, police said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Peshawar sits near restive areas along the Afghan border that are home to Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaida-linked foreign Islamic militants.
The Pakistani Taliban have been waging a bloody war against the government in a bid to overthrow the authorities and enforce their harsh brand of Islamic Shariah.
In Wednesday’s attack, a group of about 25 militants attacked the house of militia chief Israrullah Khan on Peshawar outskirts, killing him and eight of his relatives, said police official Jamal Khan.
The official said that earlier in February, the militia chief’s son and two other people were also killed after they shot dead a militant commander.
Israrullah Khan was the head of the militia supported by the Pakistani government to fight and block infiltration of the militants from the surrounding tribal regions, the official said. He said the attackers first lobbed hand grenades into a guest house in the Khan family compound, then opened fire with automatic rifles when the inmates ran outside.
The attack came a day after assailants threw hand grenades into a crowded movie theater in Peshawar, killing 13 people. No one claimed responsibility for that attack either but many militant groups view movies and other forms of entertainment as obscene Western influences.
The attacks come at a time when Pakistan is trying to hold peace negotiations with Taliban militants fighting in the country’s northwest to end the violence that has killed thousands of security forces personnel and civilians in recent years.
The Pakistani Taliban, formally called Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, is separate from the Taliban fighting NATO-forces in neighboring Afghanistan. Although the two groups share similar ideology, the Pakistani Taliban has focused its fight against the Pakistani government.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made negotiating with the militants a centerpiece of his new government elected last May.
After some initial stumbles, the government’s efforts have picked up steam in recent weeks with both sides naming people to represent them in the talks. Members of the Pakistani Taliban’s negotiating team flew to the North Waziristan tribal agency over the weekend to meet with the militant organization’s leadership at a secret location.
Maulana Samiul Haq, who heads the Taliban’s negotiating team, said both the militants and the government have recommended a cease-fire as a confidence-building measure.
Critics say the militants always used such peace deals to gain time to strengthen themselves and regroup.