Bomb kills 20 Pakistani soldiers, PM cancels Davos trip
A bomb planted by Taliban insurgents ripped through a vehicle carrying Pakistani troops today, killing 20 soldiers and prompting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to cancel his trip to the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos this week.
At least 30 others were wounded as the convoy prepared to leave the volatile northwestern town of Bannu for nearby North Waziristan, a lawless, tribal region on the Afghan border where many al Qaeda-linked militant groups are holed up.
The bold, daylight attack - the biggest on Pakistani security forces in months - dealt a major blow to the army at a time when Pakistan is already under strong US pressure to do more to contain the insurgency on its western frontier.
The army said the bomb had been planted in a civilian vehicle rented locally in order to transport troops to North Waziristan. The device exploded as soldiers got inside the car and prepared to leave.
"With the help of God we claim responsibility for this," Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said in a telephone call from an undisclosed location.
"The army is our enemy. We will carry out many more attacks like this."
The blast, which was heard all around Bannu, came despite recent hints by the Taliban that they might be theoretically open to the idea of peace talks with the government.
And yet attacks continue unabated, a concern to regional powers already anxious about security as most foreign troops prepare to leave neighbouring Afghanistan this year.
The group had earlier vowed to step up attacks on security and government forces after electing a new hardline leader, Mullah Fazlullah, at the end of last year.
A Pakistani police officer said the blast took place as a convoy of army troops and paramilitary Frontier Corps was preparing to leave Bannu, adding that security forces had cordoned off the area to investigate.