A suicide bomber killed 35 Pakistani soldiers at an army training ground on Wednesday in an attack the military said was linked to an bloody army assault on a militant camp last week.
The blast, the most serious militant attack against the Pakistani military, took place in the town of Dargai, in Northwest Frontier Province.
It came nine days after security forces attacked a madrasa in a nearby tribal area, killing 80 people.
"The bomber wrapped a chadar (cloak) around his body and came running into the training area and exploded himself where recruits had gathered for training," a military official said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Pakistan is a major US ally in the war on terrorism and has been battling militants in its northwest over the past few years.
Hundreds of militants and members of the security forces have been killed.
A security official said a second bomber’s explosives had not gone off and he was being hunted not far from the town after escaping on a motorcyle.
Dargai, 130 km northwest of the capital Islamabad, is a stronghold of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-eMohammadi (Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law) militant group.
The group, which backs Afghanistan’s Taliban, was banned by the government in 2002.
On October 30, security forces attacked the group’s school in the Bajaur tribal area about 40 km to the People carry an injured soldier of Pakistan army after a suicide attack which killed 35 soldiers in Dargai, Pakistan on Wednesday.
A suicide attacker detonated a bomb at the army’s main training base. northwest of Dargai, near the Afghan border.
About 80 suspected militants were killed, authorities said. The group denied that militants were being trained at the school. Its supporters and local politicians said the attack was carried out by US forces. The US and Pakistan denied that.
Representatives of the militant group were not available for comment on Wednesday. Soft target Military spokesperson MajorGeneral Shaukat Sultan said the suicide blast was linked to the attack on the madrasa in Bajaur.
"We can trace back the linkage with Bajaur. We have been receiv ing intelligence reports about militants being trained for such activities," Sultan said.
"Maulana Faqir has been clearly assisting them and recruiting them for terrorist activities," he said, referring to the group’s fugitive leader, Faqir Mohammad.
The group launched a campaign in the 1990s to enforce Taliban-style rules in the area and sent thousands of tribesmen to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban following the US-led invasion in 2001.
The army recruits had gathered to rest after finishing a training session when the bomber struck, a resident said.
At least 20 soldiers were wounded and many of them were in seri ous condition, a senior government official, Javed Marwat, said from a town hospital.
A security analyst said there was a general sense of alienation and anger with the government’s support for the US in the tribal areas along the Afghan border.
"I think it is part of the overall alienation in the tribal areas and wherever they find an opportunity or a soft target, they hit," said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani army general.
"They are the same people who support the Taliban, who are against the US and our government and military," he said of those behind the blast.