A Taliban bombing inside an army compound in northwest Pakistan killed at least 20 troops Sunday, officials and militants said, in one of the deadliest attacks to target the country’s forces as they battle insurgents in its volatile frontier.
The blast targeted a vehicle in a convoy about to leave a military base in the town of Bannu and drive west to the North Waziristan tribal area, police official Inyat Ali Khan said. Pakistan’s military said the blast wounded 30 troops.
The Taliban claimed the attack and called it a suicide bombing. Military officials said the blast came from an explosive planted in the vehicle, hired by the paramilitary Frontier Corps. While the army has its own transport vehicles, the paramilitary forces often hire vehicles when they need to move troops in large numbers.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Shahidullah Shahid, told The Associated Press by telephone that the attack had been carried out to avenge the death of Waliur Rehman, the group’s former second in command. He was killed last year in a US drone strike.
“We will avenge the killing of every one of our fellows through such attacks,” the spokesman warned. The explosion was heard and felt across the town of Bannu.
In their statement Sunday, the Taliban said it would be open to talks but only if they thought the government was sincere.
The militants have accused Pakistan of helping the US target Mehsud. Islamabad vehemently denied the allegation and accused Washington of sabotaging the nascent peace talks.
Mehsud’s replacement, Mullah Fazlullah, is not seen as a supporter of peace talks.