PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Two militant attacks in northwestern Pakistan killed eight people, including five policemen, on Tuesday, officials said.
In one of the attacks, gunmen ambushed a police patrol on the outskirts of the city of Peshawar, killing five policemen and a civilian, said police officer Fazal Wahid. He said the police chased the attackers and killed some of the militants in a shootout.
And in the neighboring Charsadda attack, a bomb rigged to a motorcycle exploded close to a police van, killing two bystanders, said police officer Sharifullah Khan. Both officers said nearly 20 policemen were wounded in the two attacks.
There was no claim of responsibility for the attacks but provincial police chief Nasir Durrani said the attacks were retaliation for recent arrests of militants in the region. Durrani said the police had rounded up many Taliban militants and seized much arms, ammunition and explosives.
The Pakistani government has been trying to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban in efforts to end years of fighting in the northwest that has killed thousands of people. The northwest and its adjoining tribal areas bordering Afghanistan has strongholds and sanctuaries of the local and foreign al-Qaida linked militants.
The militant group, known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, announced a one-month ceasefire on March 1 and then extended it for another 10 days. But last Wednesday, the Taliban said they will not renew a ceasefire, though they will still continue the talks with the government.
The announcement, which came after Pakistan's Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said that comprehensive talks with the militants would start within days, has cast doubts on the future of a peace process pushed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government.
The Taliban statement that called off the ceasefire did not explicitly say whether the group would refrain from or resume attacks against Pakistani government forces.
The two sides held one round of direct talks on March 26. Khan, the interior minister, said last week that the government was releasing about 30 prisoners requested by the Pakistani Taliban to facilitate the process.
Meanwhile, the U.N. children's agency said two of its Pakistani staffers abducted last week in the southern port city of Karachi have been released and were reunited with their families.
There were no details on who abducted the UNICEF staff members or how they were released.