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4 Pakistani policemen killed in militant ambush

Suspected Taliban militants killed four policemen in an ambush in northwestern Pakistan, say officials.

world Updated: Jun 09, 2008 17:54 IST

Suspected Taliban militants killed four policemen in an ambush in northwestern Pakistan, while an Islamist leader escaped a bomb attack in the same area on Monday, officials said.

The incidents came despite peace talks between the new government and the hardline militants aimed at stopping a wave of extremist violence in Pakistan's troubled mountain regions bordering Afghanistan.

The attack on the police happened on Sunday night in Matani, near Peshawar, the capital of troubled North West Frontier Province, senior police investigator Nasirul Mulk told AFP.

"The militants hid near a gas station and opened fire on the police van. It was a surprise attack -- the police party could not even retaliate because the hail of bullets was so sudden," Mulk said.

Four policemen were killed and a senior police officer was wounded in the attack, he said, adding that a hunt was under way for the killers.
Separately four policemen escorting Sufi Mohammad, the chief of the banned pro-Taliban group Tahreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM), were wounded in a bomb blast on Monday, officials said.

Mohammad was freed in April after spending seven years in jail for allegedly sending rebels to fight the US-led invasion, which eventually toppled Afghanistan's hardline Taliban regime.

"A remote controlled bomb was planted alongside the road which went off as the escort van passed by it. The TNSM chief remained unhurt in the attack" in his native town of Dir Maidan, a security official told AFP.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either attack.

Pakistan's new government launched peace talks with Islamist militants based in the country's northwestern tribal regions on the Afghan border after coming to power in March.

It has also signed a controversial peace deal with militants in the Swat Valley, a troubled former tourist region where Mohammad's group once held sway.

The negotiations led to a drop in attacks but violence has begun to rise again in recent weeks, with a suicide bomber killing six people outside the Danish embassy in Islamabad a week ago.

The attack on the police in Matani came two days after a bomb targeting a police patrol killed three policemen and two civilians in the troubled northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan.

Pakistani Taliban militants claimed responsibility for that attack.

"The bomb was detonated by our people because security forces have been arresting our people in Dera Ismail Khan and the nearby town of Tank," spokesman Maulvi Omar told AFP from an unknown location.

Omar added: "Our negotiations are continuing but the government forces also carry out sporadic attacks and we respond. If they don't stop their activity our men will continue to retaliate."