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Pakistan police commandos targeted by car bomber in Karachi; at least 11 officers killed

KARACHI, Pakistan -- A parked car bomb targeting Pakistan's elite police commando force killed at least 11 officers and wounded 47 others in the southern city of Karachi on Thursday, police said.

A van exploded as a bus with the officers passed by it after leaving a training complex, said police officer Rao Anwaar. Karachi police chief Shahid Hayat said the initial investigation suggested there was a remotely-detonated bomb on the van.

Nearly 50 officers on board the bus were from the Rapid Response Force, a special anti-terrorist police squad, Anwaar said.

Pakistani TV channels showed the blast scene littered with broken glass and pieces of vehicles scattered around.

The wounded officers were rushed to nearby hospitals, and 12 of them were in critical condition, said Dr. Seemi Jamali at the city's Jinnah Hospital.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place in Pakistan's key business hub. The port city of Karachi has long been a center of ethnic, political, militant and sectarian violence.

The assault is the latest in a series of attacks at a time when the Pakistani government is trying to strike a peace deal with local Taliban militants fighting in the country's northwest to end the violence that has killed thousands of security forces personnel, government officials, political workers and civilians in recent years.

Militants killed nine members of an anti-Taliban militia on Wednesday in Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar, a day after assailants threw hand grenades inside a cinema, killing 13 in the city.

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 Peshawar sits near restive areas along the Afghan border that are home to Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda-linked foreign Islamic militants.

The Pakistani Taliban have been waging a bloody war against the government in a bid to overthrow the authorities and enforce their harsh brand of Islamic Shariah law.

The Pakistani Taliban, formally called Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, are separate from the Taliban fighting NATO-forces in neighboring Afghanistan. Although the two groups share similar ideology, the Pakistani Taliban have focused their fight against the Pakistani government.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made negotiating with the militants a centerpiece of his new government elected last May.

After some initial stumbles, the government's efforts have picked up steam in recent weeks with both sides naming people to represent them in the talks. Members of the Pakistani Taliban's negotiating team flew to the North Waziristan tribal agency over the weekend to meet with the militant organization's leadership at a secret location.

Maulana Samiul Haq, who heads the Taliban's negotiating team, said both the militants and the government have recommended a cease-fire as a confidence-building measure.

The two teams were scheduled to meet again on Thursday.

Critics say the militants have used such peace deals to gain time to strengthen themselves and regroup.