ISLAMABAD (AP) — A suicide bomber blew himself up Wednesday near a vehicle carrying Pakistani military personnel, killing two officers, both lieutenant colonels, and three civilians near the capital Islamabad, the military said in a statement.
The officers were on their way to work when the bomber, who was on foot, blew himself up near their truck, said police officer Altaf Ahmad. The civilians were pedestrian passers-by, he said.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility hours later.
"We carried out today's suicide attack near Islamabad and we did it because the Pakistani military is also killing innocent people through air strikes in tribal areas," Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the group, said in a telephone call to an AP reporter.
Thousands of Pakistani forces have been killed by bombings and shootings while battling militants intent on overthrowing the government and establishing a harsh form of Islamic rule across the country.
Militants target troops in the rugged tribal areas bordering Afghanistan on a daily basis, but such incidents are rare near the capital. Wednesday's bombing was also significant because it killed two high-ranking officers.
The Pakistani government has been trying to negotiate a peace deal with militants based in the northwestern tribal areas, but those efforts have stalled in recent weeks, raising fears that militants might launch reprisal attacks.
Shahid said his group was still open to peace talks, but that no such negotiations could be held while the army carried out operations against the tribal areas.
Clashes in northwestern Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan meanwhile killed four soldiers, said Haseeb Khan, a local Pakistani official in the Bajaur tribal region.
The Foreign Ministry said two border posts came under fire in Bajaur on Wednesday morning from across the border.
"Pakistan condemns these unprovoked attacks," the ministry said. "This matter has been raised with the Afghan government in Kabul and with their Embassy in Islamabad. It has been emphasized that Afghanistan must take concrete steps to stop the use of its territory against Pakistan."
But an Afghan official, Gen. Abdul Habib Sayedkhaili, who heads the Kunar province police, blamed Pakistan for the incident, accusing Pakistani troops of indiscriminately firing artillery into Afghanistan Wednesday, wounding one civilian.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have long traded accusations of allowing militants to use territory for attacks against the other. The cross-border clashes have spiked in recent days.
On Saturday, Taliban fighters attacked several Pakistani military posts along the Afghan border, sparking a lengthy battle that saw Pakistan launch airstrikes into Afghanistan. Pakistan said its soldiers killed 16 militants, while Afghan officials said the airstrikes killed five civilians.
Associated Press writers Asif Shahzad in Islamabad, Anwarullah Khan in Khar, Bajaur and Amir Shah in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.