Nine soldiers were killed in a troubled western region of Pakistan on Thursday after a suicide bomber rammed his motorcycle into their military convoy and exploded, army and officials said.
Pakistan has seen a dramatic rise in militancy since the Taliban returned to power in neighboring Afghanistan two years ago, with attacks along the border regions escalating.
A “motorcycle-carried suicide bomber exploded” in Pakistan’s Bannu district, 61 kilometers (38 miles) from the border, the army’s media wing said.
The rugged frontier region has long been a hotbed of militant activity. Hard-line organizations like Pakistan’s indigenous Taliban group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) use the largely uncontrolled border to evade detection and carry out encroachments.
“The suicide bomber was on a motorcycle and rammed his bike into a truck in a military convoy,” provincial minister Feroze Jamal Shah told AFP.
According to the Pakistan Army, another five soldiers were injured in the attack near the town of Jani Khel, but Shah put the number at 20.
Acting Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar called the incident “a cowardly act of terrorism”.
The TTP is the biggest threat in the region and Islamabad has claimed its fighters find safe haven in Afghanistan.
In recent months, the group has waged a campaign against security officials, including police officers.
In January, a TTP-affiliated suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque at a police compound in the northwest city of Peshawar, killing more than 80 officers.
The Islamic State group has also been active in the country and claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing last month that killed at least 54 people, including 23 children, at a political party rally.
Pakistan was once plagued by near-daily bombings, but a major military clearing of the former tribal areas from 2014 largely restored order.
The seven outlying districts bordering Afghanistan, which include Bannu, were later brought under the control of Pakistani authorities after a law was passed in 2018.
Analysts say militants in the former tribal areas have been emboldened since Taliban authorities returned to Afghanistan.
Pakistan, meanwhile, faces a deteriorating security situation, an economic downturn and political unrest. Elections for a new government are due in the coming months, but an official date has not yet been announced.
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