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Blast Kills 9 After Pakistan Postpones Taliban Talks

A worker collects evidence at the site of a deadly bomb blast in Peshawar, Pakistan on February 4.
A worker collects evidence at the site of a deadly bomb blast in Peshawar, Pakistan on February 4.
Pakistani police say a suicide bomber in the northwestern city of Peshawar has killed nine people and wounded more than 50.

Police said the blast occurred near a hotel frequented by members of the Shi'ite Muslim minority.

Police officer, Najeeb Rehman, said the attack took place as worshippers left a nearby mosque and were heading to the hotel.

"This blast took place at the restaurant or dining hall of the Pak Hotel at Koocha Risaldar at five past 8:00," Rehman said. "According to the initial information gathered by the [bomb disposal unit], it was a suicide attack. We have come to know that the suicide bomber was sitting at a nearby shop. Suddenly, he rushed to the restaurant and blew himself up there. Eight people have been killed and over 30 are injured."

RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal reports that a new militant group -- Major Mast Gul -- claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Pakistani Taliban denied any involvement.

The bombing comes just hours after peace talks between government negotiators and the Pakistani Taliban were delayed.

Both sides recently named their negotiating teams, which had been expected to meet Tuesday in the capital, Islamabad.

However, government negotiators failed to show up, later blaming the Pakistani Taliban for failing to provide a list of the names of their negotiating team.

Later, a member of the Pakistani government negotiating team, Rahimullah Yousufzai, said all issues had been cleared up and they were ready to meet.

It was not clear when the preliminary peace talks would be rescheduled.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Shahidullah Shahid, prayed for the success of the talks.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says he favors talks over military action to end militant violence in Pakistan, where an estimated 40,000 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in recent years.

Authorities blame most of the deaths on the Pakistani Taliban.

Militants in Pakistan began targeting security forces and civilians after Islamabad gave its backing to the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan and began targeting militants in the tribal areas.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa, and RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal
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