Pakistani security officials inspect the site of an attack by militants in Peshawar on Wednesday. Image Credit: AFP

Peshawar: Militants killed nine men in a raid on a house of anti-Taliban activists in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, the latest violence to hit fledgling peace talks.

The attack came as Taliban and government negotiators try to start meaningful talks to end a seven-year Islamist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.

A government negotiator told AFP on Wednesday the Taliban had agreed to enter direct dialogue without intermediaries if their safety could be guaranteed.

Around two dozen fighters were involved in Wednesday’s attack in Mashukhel neighbourhood of Peshawar, close to the Khyber tribal district, where Taliban and Islamist groups are active.

Taliban and other militant groups have been targeting locals who support the security forces or have formed vigilante groups against them.

“At least nine men were shot dead by militants who stormed into a house around 4.30am firing with automatic weapons and exploding hand grenades,” senior police official Fazal-e-Wahid told AFP.

Furious residents blocked the main highway linking Peshawar with the garrison town of Kohat for some time to protest against the killings, Tilla Khan, a local peace committee member, told AFP.

The attack came a day after 13 people were killed by a triple grenade attack on a Peshawar cinema which was showing pornography. Earlier in the month a separate cinema in the city was also hit by grenades, killing four and wounding 31.

Wahid said the militant group involved in Wednesday’s attack separated adult males of the family, shot them and later fled.

A man of the same family who served in the community police was killed in an armed attack some 18 months ago, Wahid added.

Najib-ur-Rahman, another senior police official, confirmed the incident and said the gunmen had targeted the family because of their affiliations with a local peace committee.

Khyber straddles the Nato supply line into Afghanistan, used by US-led troops to evacuate military equipment as they withdraw by the end of this year.

Thousands fled fighting between militants and the military in Khyber in the early months of last year, according to aid groups, though by June the army said it had taken control of all the key strategic heights.

Wednesday’s attack came after negotiators representing the Pakistani government and Taliban militants met for a second time Tuesday as part of efforts to end the bloody seven-year rebellion.

Rustam Shah Mohmand, a member of the government committee for peace talks and former ambassador to Afghanistan, told AFP: “The Pakistani Taliban has expressed its willingness to come forward for peace talks if they are given a guarantee of safety.”

The chief of the Taliban committee, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, has called for a session of religious leaders on Saturday to “take the clerics into confidence” regarding the peace negotiations.

Pakistani troops have been fighting for years against home-grown insurgents in the tribal belt, which Washington considers the main hub of Taliban and Al Qaida militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.