Taliban killed 100 soldiers in five months, says army

February 20, 2014 - 10:55:38 am
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army yesterday said more than 100 soldiers had been killed by Taliban militants in the last five months, in a rare admission of mass casualties since the start of government efforts to engage the insurgents in peace talks.

The administration of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who came to power last year promising to find a negotiated peace with the Taliban, has been trying to engage the militants in talks but these efforts have faltered in past weeks.

The lack of progress on peace talks has given rise to speculation that the government, backed by the powerful army, is preparing for a ground and air offensive against Taliban strongholds in the tribal belt on the Afghan border.

Requesting anonymity, security officials told Reuters that 308 civilians, 114 military personnel and 38 police officers had been killed since September 2013, around a time when Sharif convened an all-party conference that unanimously opted for peace talks.

The Pakistani army almost never releases numbers of its losses against Taliban insurgents, a group operating seperately from its Afghan namesake, and striving to overthrow the Islamabad government and install an Islamic state. Talks between representatives of the Taliban and government officials broke down earlier this week after a series of attacks on security forces claimed by fringe Taliban groups.

The army publicly supports Sharif’s call for talks but in private senior officers have spoke strongly against it.