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Two dozen dead in attacks across Pakistan despite talks

Source: Reuters - Fri, 14 Mar 2014 12:05 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Adds details of the second attack, releads)

By Jibran Ahmed and Gul Yousafzai

PESHAWSAR/QUETTA, Pakistan, March 14 (Reuters) - Attacks in the volatile Pakistani cities of Peshawar and Quetta killed a total of 19 people on Friday, dashing hopes of a lasting peace deal with insurgents fighting to topple the government.

In Peshawar, a sprawling city on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of a police vehicle killing at least nine bystanders, including a woman and a child, police said.

In Quetta, in the unruly province of Baluchistan, at least 10 people were killed when a motorcycle laden with explosives blew up near a college in the city centre, police said.

The attacks took place as the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tries to engage Pakistani Taliban militants in talks to hammer out a permanent ceasefire agreement and end years of violence.

But a series of attacks and counter-attacks by insurgents and government forces since the start of the year has dampened expectations that peace talks could ever yield any result.

In Peshawar, police chief Faisal Kamran said the target of the attack was an armoured personnel carrier.

"The police were deployed in the armoured personnel carrier to provide security during Friday prayers outside mosques when it came under attack," he said. "The policemen luckily remained safe but innocent people were killed and injured."

Jamil Shah, a spokesman for the city's biggest hospital, said at least 30 were injured.

In Quetta, at least 10 people were killed and 35 wounded when the motorcycle exploded near the college, police said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Friday's attacks.

The Pakistani Taliban, which is separate from the Afghan Taliban, is a fragmented and deeply divided organisation of dozens of smaller groups who do not always agree with each other.

Its leadership, which seems keen on the talks, has condemned previous attacks, distancing itself from the violence.

This has spurred speculation that the central command is not in control of the many splinter groups operating under it, and reaching a peace deal with one of them would not stop the violence. (Writing by Maria Golovnina)

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