A bomb attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban killed 20 soldiers and wounded more than 30 after it tore through a military convoy in Pakistan's restive northwest tribal region on Sunday, officials said.
The attack happened in the city of Bannu near the North Waziristan tribal region that is a known stronghold of militants linked to the Taliban and al Qaeda.
"A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device caused the blast," a senior military official told AFP, adding that the exact circumstances of the attack were unclear.
"The explosion took place in one of the vehicles of the convoy, killing 20 soldiers and wounding more than 30," he said on condition of anonymity.
The official said the convoy was about to leave for the town of Razmak when the blast hit one of the civilian vehicles hired to move the troops.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Shahidullah Shahid claimed his group was responsible for the deaths.
"It was part of our fight against a secular system," he told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.
"We will carry out more such attacks in future," he said.
Taliban insurgents have led a bloody campaign against the Pakistani state in recent years, carrying out hundreds of attacks on security forces and government targets, mainly in the northwest tribal region.
An eyewitness told AFP by telephone that all that was left of the vehicle hit by the bomb was scorched metal.
"I collected human remains including hands and legs from the site after the attack," he said. "... I also helped rescue workers in moving injured people to ambulances."
Body parts and soldiers' personal belongings littered the scene.
Bannu has been the scene of several past attacks on security forces.
Pakistani troops have for years been battling homegrown insurgents in the northwestern tribal belt, which Washington considers the main hub of the Taliban and al Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani Taliban, other militant affiliates and al Qaeda-linked networks all have strongholds in the country's northwest, particularly in the semi-autonomous tribal areas on the Afghan border.
Pakistan, which joined the US-led "war on terror" in 2001, has been hit by a local Taliban-led insurgency concentrated largely in the northwest since July 2007.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in Pakistan since 2001 by militants who oppose Islamabad's alliance with the United States.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-01-19