A convoy of more than 40 vehicles was leaving the garrison town of Bannu for the troubled North Waziristan tribal region when an improvised explosive device exploded inside a truck at about 9 a.m., according to military officials. Ten vehicles were destroyed in the blast.
The bomb was planted in a private truck that had been hired by the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force under the command of the Pakistani army that regularly battles insurgents in the country’s lawless northwestern tribal areas, said a security official who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.
The truck was transporting soldiers and paramilitary forces from Bannu, about 100 miles south of the provincial capital of Peshawar, to Razman, a town in North Waziristan, officials said.
The Pakistani army and the Frontier Corps have been conducting coordinated operations against militants in the tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Shahid Ullah Shahid, told reporters by telephone from an undisclosed location that his organization was behind the attack.
Witnesses said 22 soldiers died and 38 were injured. The security official put the death toll at 20, with 30 injured, many of them critically, but casualty figures often differ in the aftermath of major attacks in Pakistan.
A resident of Bannu, Muhammad Salam, said security forces cordoned off the roads leading to the garrison and that the bodies of dead and wounded soldiers were taken to a military hospital in town. Authorities already had declared a curfew across North Waziristan because of the scheduled military convoy.
Ali is a Times special correspondent.