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Taliban Talks at Standstill as Pakistani Militants Cancel Truce

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - The Pakistani Taliban has formally ended a 40-day truce, saying the government had stepped up attacks during the cease-fire and refused to release hundreds of prisoners as the militants demanded.

“We are forced to end our 40-day cease-fire as the government, despite having a cease-fire, continued violence against our people,” Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), said on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, Shahid said the group was willing to continue peace talks with the government.

A first round of negotiations between the government and militants began in February but collapsed soon after when the Taliban bombed a bus full of police officers and executed 23 kidnapped men from a government paramilitary force. The government then halted talks and threatened to launch a military operation against Taliban bases.

Negotiations resumed after the Taliban declared a cease-fire on March 1, although attacks did not stop.

Shahid said the decision to end cease-fire with the government was made during the Taliban's main shura, or meeting of leaders, on Wednesday.

He went on to say that the majority of the group's followers were unhappy when the truce was announced.

Image: Pakistani mourners grieve the death of relatives
Pakistani mourners grieve the death of relatives at a hospital in Islamabad on April 9 after a bomb tore through a bustling Islamabad market, killing at least 17 people. FAROOQ NAEEM / AFP - Getty Images, file

"Despite their opposition, we followed the cease-fire and in return we made some demands from the government such as releasing civilian prisoners, ending the crackdown against our people and stopping torture on the Taliban prisoners in jails and secret detention centers," Shahid said.

There was no official government reaction to the Taliban's announcement.

A source close to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told NBC News on condition of anonymity that the government wanted talks to continue but had concerns about some of the Taliban's stipulations.

"The army has serious reservations about the demand to release militants," the official said.

- Fakhar u Rehman and Reuters contributed to this report.