Islamabad, Dec. 31 (ANI): The killing of 41 people in two separate terror attacks in Pakistan on Sunday will temporarily halt prospects for immediate peace talks between Pakistani authorities and Taliban militants, two senior Pakistani intelligence officers and a senior western diplomat in Islamabad have warned.
Both intelligence officers said that the fallout of the killings may even harm U.S. plans to peacefully draw down troops from Afghanistan, with Pakistan's active backing.
According to CBS News, in the first incident, 21 Pakistani paramilitary guards working in the northern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, who were kidnapped last week by the Taliban, were confirmed dead on Saturday.
One Pakistani intelligence officer, who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity because intelligence officers are not allowed to speak to journalists, said that all 21 men were brutally killed by their captors.
He said that the kidnapped men's killings may have been triggered in part by the Pakistani government's refusal to release some Taliban militants in custody.
According to the report, after the men were kidnapped, a senior government official in the northern city of Peshawar, the provincial capital, said that the Taliban demanded the release of some of their fellow militants in Pakistan's custody in exchange for the 21 men.
In the second incident on Sunday, at least 20 Pakistanis of the Shia Muslim faith were killed and more than 20 wounded when a car bomb targeted their convoy of buses being driven through the southwestern Baluchistan province to the Iranian border, the report said.
Pakistani officials said that the people were heading to Iran's northern holy city of Mashhad to attend an important Shiite commemoration in the coming week.
The second Pakistani intelligence officer said that the killings in Baluchistan 'seem to be linked to factions associated with the Taliban'.
According to the report, the two terrorist incidents were preceded by reports of the Taliban sending messages to senior leaders of President Asif Ali Zardari's administration in Islamabad, seeking peace talks to end a decade-long conflict with the Pakistan army. (ANI)