Taliban bomb inside Pakistani army compound blows up, killing 20
A bomb planted by the Taliban ripped through a vehicle carrying members of the security forces inside a Pakistani army compound in the country's volatile northwest yesterday, killing 20 people.
It was another heavy blow for the Pakistani military, which has been fighting a stubborn insurgency in the country's northwest.
Bombs and shootings have killed thousands of security forces and left thousands more wounded and maimed.
The vehicle was hired by the paramilitary Frontier Corps, said police official Inyat Ali Khan from the Bannu region where the explosion occurred.
It was part of a convoy that was about to leave the military base in the town of Bannu and drive west to the North Waziristan tribal area, he said.
A military source confirmed the convoy was part of a regular Sunday morning troop rotation going into North Waziristan.
He could not say whether any civilians were killed, but most of the dead were paramilitary troops and at least 30 people were wounded, many critically.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Shahidullah Shahid, said the attack was carried out to avenge the death of the group's former deputy chief, Waliur Rehman, who was killed last year in an American drone strike.
"We will avenge the killing of every one of our fellows through such attacks," he warned.
The explosion was heard and felt across the town of Bannu. One resident who lives close to the base said the deafening explosion shook his house.
North Waziristan is considered a safe haven for al-Qaeda- linked militants. Pakistani troop convoys are often hit by roadside bombs.
Last month, four Pakistani troops were killed when a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden car into a checkpoint outside an army camp in North Waziristan. But blasts inside a compound are rare.
Pakistani defence analyst Zahid Hussain said while the army has its own transport vehicles, the paramilitary forces often hire vehicles when they need to move troops in large numbers.
Neither the Pakistani army nor the paramilitary troops have armoured vehicles for troop transports, Hussain said.
It is not clear how or when the explosives were planted, but Hussain said the use of private vehicles would make it much easier to plant such a device.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was elected last May in part by promising to end the fighting through a negotiated settlement instead of through military operations. But so far the Pakistani Taliban has shown little desire to negotiate with the government.