NORTH WAZIRISTAN - At least 14 soldiers were killed and 22 others sustained injuries when a roadside bomb hit a military convoy in North Waziristan Agency on Sunday.
Officials said curfew was in place in Miranshah since early Sunday morning and forces were on routine patrolling when the bomb went off. Officials, confirming Sunday’s attack near Dosali village, said the bomb was an IED or improvised explosive device.
Reportedly, two vehicles of the security forces were damaged in blast. Helicopters arrived at the scene of the blast to help ferry the wounded to hospital. The 14 dead and 20 wounded were shifted to a military hospital in Miranshah, while those with minor injuries were shifted to CMH Bannu. Some critically injured soldiers were rushed to CMH Peshawar.
Forces cordoned off the area soon after the blast.
It merits mentioning here that the attack came just a day after TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud directed his militants not to target Pakistani troops in North Waziristan. Security forces have been battling the militants in North Waziristan Agency for years.
Agencies add: A senior military official said, “At least 14 soldiers embraced martyrdom and 25 others were wounded in an IED (attack)”.
All the soldiers killed were in one truck and those injured were in vehicles behind it, he added.
Local residents said military helicopter gunships had reached the scene after the attack. Nobody immediately claimed responsibility but Taliban militants frequently attack security forces in the area.
The explosion occurred on a road about 50 km south of the provincial capital of Miranshah.
On Saturday, Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), had circulated a leaflet calling for an end to the Taliban’s infrequent attacks on Pakistani soldiers in North Waziristan.
Thousands of soldiers are stationed in North Waziristan.
The ceasefire did not apply to the rest of the country, where there are often fierce clashes between the Taliban and security services.
The mountainous tribal region of North Waziristan along the Afghan border is a key stronghold of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. South Waziristan is under the control of the Wazir tribe, who have a peace deal with the Pakistan Army.
It was unclear if the leaflet was related to rumours of splits in the movement. It called on local and foreign fighters to unite because “the enemy is trying to divide and rule us”.
The Taliban have formed alliances with a number of other militant groups in North Waziristan who are violently opposed to the Pakistani state.
Some Taliban commanders are divided over whether the Pakistani state or Nato forces are their top target.
Those divisions were laid bare in November by an attempted suicide attack on Mullah Nazir, a top militant commander from the Wazir tribe in South Waziristan. He had signed a peace deal with the Pakistan Army but supported attacks on Nato forces in Afghanistan.
The attack was widely believed to be the work of rival Taliban commanders, and the Wazir tribe ordered Hakimullah Mehsud’s tribe out of their lands.
Mullah Nazir was killed in a drone strike this month and it is unclear if his successor will continue his policies, or what relationship the Wazir tribe will have with the Mehsud tribe.
Pakistan Army officials have said there are tensions between Mehsud and his deputy. The two men recently appeared together in a video to deny the allegations.
The decision to halt attacks against the Pakistan Army in North Waziristan could signal the TTP’s intention to help the Afghan Taliban fight US-led Nato forces in the neighbouring country, or focus more closely on attacking Western targets inside Pakistan.
Or it could be more specifically aimed at unifying local factions. Mehsud’s statement specifically addressed both foreign fighters and local Taliban.