No relenting on attacks against Pak forces: TTP

Islamabad: The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has said it will continue carrying out suicide attacks and targeting Pakistani security forces despite joining other militant groups in a pledge not to kill innocent people or to resort to kidnappings for ransom. "Yes, we signed an accord with three other major Taliban groups of Maulvi Nazeer, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and an Afghan Taliban faction to avoid killing of innocent people and kidnapping for ransom, but we did not agree with them to stop suicide attacks and our fight against Pakistani security forces," TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said.

The TTP led by Hakimullah Mehsud had not announced any ceasefire and had no plans to do so in the near future, Ehsan told The News daily on phone from an undisclosed location in the tribal areas. He warned that TTP fighters would continue their operations in Pakistan. The TTP will extend cooperation to the five-member `Shura` or council with representatives from the groups of Maulvi Nazeer and Hafiz Gul Bahadur and the Haqqani network, he said.

The Shura was recently formed by Taliban factions from North South Waziristan, which signed an accord on the directive of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the supreme commander of the Afghan Taliban. The other groups have pledged not to attack Pakistani security forces.

However, Ehsan argued that the joint Shura had been formed only for tackling two key issues – frequent incidents of kidnapping for ransom and killing of innocent people, especially those picked up in the tribal areas and executed on charges of spying for the US. Ehsan declined to comment on reports that Mullah Omar had urged the Pakistani Taliban to stop fighting in Pakistan and instead support the Afghan Taliban in "liberating Afghanistan from the occupation forces".

He only said that the TTP would operate in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. "Look, for us Pakistan is as important as Afghanistan and, therefore, we cannot stop our activities here," he said. Ehsan further said there were no differences among the TTP leadership. Hakimullah Mehsud was still the leader of the Pakistani Taliban and Maulana Waliur Rahman was his deputy, he said.

The militant groups formed the Shura against the backdrop of reports that Pakistani intelligence agencies were conducting peace talks with the Taliban. The ISI chief and his deputies told a parliamentary panel last week that some "major surprises" were expected in the peace talks with the Taliban.

However, top leaders of the civilian government, including Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Interior Minister Rehman Malik have insisted that no talks are being held with the Taliban.