Militants attack near Pakistan-Afghanistan border

Despite ongoing violence in the North West Frontier Province, Pakistan's new government vows to continue peace talks with the Taliban.

Peace talks between the Pakistani government and insurgents continued this week despite a series of violent attacks. Analysts and government officials say that the violence will not affect Islamabad's resolve to reach negotiated settlements with the rebels.

Wednesday, militants blew up dozens of video and music stalls near the Afghan border. On Monday, a car bomb killed six people outside the Danish Embassy in the country's capital. Over the past week, the Taliban have attacked a series of checkpoints in tribal areas, and government forces are stepping up security in some cities to prevent the Taliban's intimidation of locals.

The Associated Press reported that Monday's car bomb, which prompted Norway and Sweden to close their embassies, might bear the mark of Al Qaeda.

Danish authorities said the terror network or one of its affiliates was likely behind the explosion, which came just weeks after the terrorist group threatened Denmark over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad reprinted earlier this year in newspapers in that country....
Ben Venzke, CEO of IntelCenter, a U.S. group that monitors al-Qaida messages, said the terror group called for attacks against Danish diplomatic facilities and personnel in a video last August, and repeated its threat in April.
"I urge and incite every Muslim who can harm Denmark to do so in support of the Prophet, God's peace and prayers be upon him, and in defense of his honorable stature," IntelCenter quoted al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri as saying in an April 21 video.

The Pakistan-based Daily Times, a leading English-language daily, writes that the Taliban attacked checkpoints in western Pakistan, and Reuters reports that militants bombed music shops near the Afghan border. Geo TV, a Pakistani broadcast network, reports that Taliban fighters have been intimidating locals in Peshawar, such as owners of movie theaters, prompting increased government security.

The Pakistani Army has fought a series of battles with Islamic militants in Swat since November of last year, reports The Christian Science Monitor. However, despite the recent incidents, government officials insist that peace talks will continue unabated. The Daily Times reports that Monday's blast at the Danish Embassy is not linked to domestic militancy.

Officials said on Tuesday that local Taliban were likely behind the attack on the Danish embassy, which they claimed was linked to the printing of blasphemous caricatures in Danish newspapers and would not impact the new government's talks with local Taliban.
"This attack was not linked to any event in the country or the region, rather it was part of widespread outrage throughout the Islamic world against publishing blasphemous caricatures," a senior official said.

The English-language Pakistani daily Dawn reported this week that the provincial government has initiated talks with the Taliban in the Mardan district of the country's North West Frontier Province.

Welcoming the provincial government's offer for talks, a spokesman for the local Taliban on Friday announced a ceasefire in the district.

The spokesman ... said that provincial government was sincere in its offer for talks, but the real decision-makers were the NWFP governor, the central government and the armed forces who "are killing us at the behest of the American."
He said that the Taliban had decided to stop attacks on civilians and government installations in response to the provincial government's offer for talks.

The government launched similar talks in other areas of the North West Frontier Province, according to the Pakistani paper The News.

Asia Times Online reports that the central government is looking to work with Taliban leaders to redress local grievances.

Asia Times Online has received information that Pakistani pro-Taliban tribal warlord Baitullah Mehsud – against whom a case has been registered in connection with the assassination of [Benazir] Bhutto last December – will be given compensation money to be distributed among tribals who lost property and men during recent battles with Pakistani security forces. The money is likely to be delivered next week, after which an agreement will be formally signed between Pakistan and Baitullah Mehsud.

The negotiations come at a time when Islamabad is facing increased pressure to crack down on militant activity, amid fears that peace settlements may only provide sanctuaries for Taliban soldiers in their fight against the NATO presence in Afghanistan. The Australian website News Digital Media reports that outgoing NATO commander Gen. Dan McNeill considers Pakistan key to Afghanistan's security.

After a wave of deadly extremist violence, Pakistan has embarked on peace talks with militant groups along its porous border with Afghanistan, which are also said to be involved in unrest here....
"If there is no pressure on insurgent sanctuaries out of reach of security forces in this country, then I think [the insurgency is] likely to grow," [Mr. McNeill] said.

While pressuring the political establishment in Islamabad, Washington continues to supply the Pakistani Army with weapons and equipment. The Associated Press of Afghanistan, a Pakistani news service, reports:

The US Congress Tuesday notified delivery of 10 refurbished F-16 fighter aircraft to Pakistan. Of the 12 refurbished planes, Pakistan is getting from the United States, two have already been delivered to it.
The country will receive eight jets over two months, four each in June and July this year, while the remaining two F-16s will be delivered subsequently.
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