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Pakistan Peace Talks Stalled by Soldier Deaths

Peace talks between the Pakistani government and Taliban insurgents broke down Monday after the Taliban said it had killed 23 captive soldiers.

A faction of the Taliban in the tribal Mohmand agency said late Sunday the militants killed the soldiers seized nearly four years ago. The insurgents said the killings were in retaliation for fighters they claim were killed in government custody.

Omar Khurasani, an assistant to the Pakistani Taliban chief, confirmed the soldier'd deaths.

"The fact is that this government and the intelligence agencies do not want to bring peace to Pakistan. During the present talks, the government and security agencies have started a process of killing our colleagues who were in their prisons. In the past few days they have killed 23 of our colleagues from Mohmand agency alone. In retaliation we have killed 23 of the FC (Frontier Constabulary) prisoners who we had captured from the Shunkarai post in June 2010. "

The government pulled out of the talks and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the killings.

A Pakistani security official told the French news agency the allegation terrorists in the custody of security forces were killed is baseless and merely "Taliban propaganda to justify their dastardly acts of terror."

Officials say a date for another round of talks has not been scheduled.

Pakistan is trying to negotiate an end to years of fighting in the country's restive northwest.

Some Pakistan observers have been skeptical that negotiations with the outlawed militant group would bring results in a country where the Taliban is fighting to topple the government to establish an Islamic state.