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Pakistani Taliban announces 1-month cease-fire

A paramilitary soldier stands guard near the building where relatives and officials are attending the funeral prayer of security officials, who were killed in a bomb attack, at an administration office in Jamrud about 25 km (15 miles) west of Peshawar March 1, 2014. Militants killed 12 members of the security escort for a polio vaccination team in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, detonating a roadside bomb before opening fire on their convoy, according to officials. REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz (PAKISTAN - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW MILITARY HEALTH)

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By The Associated Press
Saturday, March 1, 2014, 7:00 p.m.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The Pakistani Taliban announced Saturday that the group will observe a one-month cease-fire as part of efforts to negotiate a peace deal with the government, throwing new life into a foundering peace process.

Spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said in a statement emailed to reporters that the top leadership of the militant group has instructed all of its units to comply with the cease-fire.

The leader of the government's negotiating team, Irfan Sadiqui, praised the cease-fire announcement while speaking on Pakistan's Geo Television, saying the government will review any written document from the Taliban about it.

“Today, we are seeing a big breakthrough,” Sadiqui said.

In recent weeks, Pakistani jets and helicopters have been striking militant hideouts in the northwest, after previous efforts at negotiations broke down when a militant faction announced it had killed 23 Pakistani troops.

The Pakistani Taliban has been trying to overthrow the government and establish its own hard-line form of Islam across Pakistan for years. Tens of thousands of people have died in militant attacks.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has long promoted negotiations over military operations as a way to end the ongoing crisis. His efforts gained speed this year when both sides announced negotiating teams held initial meetings. But negotiations fell apart after the deaths of the 23 Pakistani troops, and Sharif has been under pressure to retaliate for any Taliban violence.

Critics of the peace process say militants have used previous negotiations to simply regroup.

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