No peace talks until all terms are met, Taleban tell Pakistan

Updated 13 November 2013
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No peace talks until all terms are met, Taleban tell Pakistan

WAZIRISTAN: The Pakistani Taleban envoy drew his white trousers up before settling on the floor of a mud-walled house in Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtun tribal region near the Afghan border.
Bodyguards, their long hair spilling out from traditional flat caps, listened warily for the occasional sound of a drone aircraft overhead.
Carefully, Shahidullah Shahid laid out the conditions for peace talks with the Pakistani government: Release all Taleban prisoners, withdraw the army from the tribal areas where the Taleban are entrenched, and stop US drone strikes.
The Pakistani Taleban, an umbrella group of factions operating independently from their Afghan Taleban allies, are fighting to set up an Islamic state in Pakistan but the government is trying to negotiate a peace settlement to end years of fighting.
“Drones really stop us from moving freely in the area,” Shahid, the main spokesman for the Pakistani Taleban, told a small group of reporters on a recent visit to Waziristan.
“But even if our enemies use an atomic bomb, we would not stop our jihad.”
Despite the government’s push for talks, violence has risen sharply since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to power in a May election. Churches, buses and markets have all been hit, reflecting the Taleban’s resolve to keep fighting.
Shahid said, there had been no direct peace contacts between Sharif’s representatives and the Taleban. Taleban officials who escorted Reuters on the trip requested that the exact location of the interview not be revealed.
Pakistan sponsored the rise of the Taleban in neighboring Afghanistan in the 1990s but now faces its own home-grown insurgency. It is keen to find a lasting solution to the problem which has devastated communities and ruined the economy.
“At the start of negotiations, you don’t threaten them, you speak from a position of strength but you don’t try to irritate them,” Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s foreign policy chief, said last month.


Canadian leaders condemn arson at mosque

Edson mosque
Updated 49 min 36 sec ago
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Canadian leaders condemn arson at mosque

OTTAWA: Canadian leaders on Monday condemned a “brazen” act of arson at an Alberta mosque as Muslims around the world celebrated the end of Ramadan.
The mosque in the town of Edson was set ablaze Saturday night, blackening the entrance to the building but otherwise causing no injuries and little damage.
“All of Canada stands together with the community against this brazen act, which is under investigation. Everyone has the right to practice their faith without fear,” Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Twitter.
Surveillance footage showed a person in a dark hoodie carrying a jerrycan fleeing the mosque at about 11 p.m. local time Saturday (0300 GMT Sunday).
The 30-year-old mosque serves as a place of worship for 15 families in Edson, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of Edmonton.
Alberta’s social democratic Premier Rachel Notley called the arson an “affront to all Albertans” and she renewed her government’s commitment to “fighting racism in all its forms.”
The province’s Conservative leader Jason Kenney called it “an attack on freedom” while vowing solidarity “with our Muslim neighbors against such acts of hatred.”