Five Pakistani Taliban militants, including a key commander, were killed when unknown gunmen attacked their vehicle in the restive northwest Pakistan tribal region.

The assailants opened fire at the vehicle in South Waziristan Agency near the Afghan border, killing the occupants who were members of the Hakimullah Mehsud group of the banned Tehrik—e—Taliban Pakistan (TTP), officials said.

The dead included a local commander identified as Shafiq.

The assailants managed to flee the scene after the attack, said the officials.

The incident came when government and Taliban negotiators were gearing up for the next phase of dialogue process to bring an end to a two—decade old bloody war.

The Pakistani Taliban had on April 4 extended the ceasefire until April 10 and said it would decide later on the future course of action on peace talks with the government.

However, the TTP seems split on whether or not to extend the ceasefire with one faction claiming that they will launch attacks soon while another saying a formal decision is yet to be made.