Bomb kills 20 troops in NW Pakistan

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batori.inBANNU, Pakistan — A bomb planted by the Taliban ripped through a vehicle carrying security forces inside a Pakistani army compound in the country’s volatile north-western region on Sunday, killing 20 troops, officials and the militants said.

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.

The convoy was part of a regular Sunday morning troop rotation going into North Waziristan, said a military source. He said the bulk of the casualties were from the Frontier Corps because the bomb was planted in a vehicle hired by the paramilitary force to transport their personnel. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The explosion killed 20 security personnel and wounded another 30, the Pakistani military said in a statement.

The explosion was heard and felt across the town of Bannu.

It’s not clear how or when the explosive was planted on the vehicle, 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.

The militant group ruled out peace talks with the government after an American drone killed the group’s leader Hakimullah Mehsud on Nov. 1, although even before that many analysts had little faith the negotiations would be successful. Previous peace talks have quickly fallen apart, and many analysts say such negotiations are generally used by the militants to regroup for future fighting.

The militants accused Pakistan of helping the U.S. target Mehsud. Islamabad vehemently denied the allegation and accused Washington of sabotaging its attempt to strike a deal with the Taliban to end years of violence.

The militant group vowed to step up its attacks against the government and the military, and Mehsud’s replacement, Mullah Fazlullah, is not seen as a supporter of peace talks.

Fazlullah was the leader of the Pakistani Taliban in the northwest Swat Valley and fled to Afghanistan after the army launched an offensive there in 2009. He is known as a particularly ruthless militant who planned the attempted assassination of teenage activist Malala Yousafzai in 2012.

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