Even as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is sending out messages offering to negotiate with the government, attacks on government personnel continue with one branch of the terrorist outfit claiming responsibility for the kidnapping of 22 Levies personnel from the Frontier Region near Peshawar on Thursday.

The TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud on Friday threw his weight behind the olive branch that the organisation had extended through the media earlier this week. According to Reuters, Mehsud said in a video message delivered to the news agency that the TTP was willing to negotiate with the government but not disarm.

“We believe in dialogue but it should not be frivolous. Asking us to lay down arms is a joke,” Mehsud said. The video shows Mehsud sitting next to his deputy Wali ur-Rehman who, according to some media reports earlier this month, was tipped to take over leadership of the TTP. Mehsud dismissed these reports of a split between the two as propaganda.

Meanwhile, according to security officials, the Levies personnel were taken away from the Kohl Hassan khel area by terrorists who attacked two posts in the wee hours of Thursday. After a gunfight, the heavily armed terrorists took away personnel from these posts before attacking a couple of other check posts. The Dara Adamkhel unit of the TTP claimed responsibility for the attack. The TTP also claimed that eight security personnel had been killed in the attack.

While security personnel had initially hoped that the missing Levies staff had taken shelter in the rugged terrain following the attack, their worst fears were confirmed with the TTP’s admission that the men were in its custody. Now, the government is seeking the help of tribal elders to secure the release of the Levies personnel.

Levies are part of the law enforcement system of the tribal and semi-tribal areas, and come under direct federal control. Besides law and order, they are also involved in collecting taxes for the government and the system traces its origins back to the colonial period.

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