A high-ranking Pakistani general has been killed in a bomb attack claimed by the Taliban near the Afghan border, the Pakistani army said.
Major General Sanaullah Khan was the top army commander in a northwestern region, including the volatile Swat Valley.
A lieutenant colonel and another officer were also killed in the attack on Sunday in the Upper Dir district after visiting an outpost near the border, the army said.
Khan is one of the most senior officers to be killed by the Pakistani Taliban, and his death could jeopardise ongoing efforts for peace talks between the group and the government, Al Jazeera’a Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said.
The attack came at a time when the military was about to start its withdrawal from Shangla in upper Swat and Buner.
Many fighters were pushed out of the volatile area and fled across the border to Afghanistan after military operations.
The Pakistani Taliban has already claimed responsibility for the attack and said there was no peace effort for now, he added.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in a statement that “the Pakistan army has made substantial sacrifices to protect the nation against the menace of terrorism and such cowardly acts by terrorists cannot deter the morale of our armed forces”.
The Taliban said last year that they would only consider talks if the government imposed strict Islamic law and went to war with old enemy India.
But Sharif’s government, which came to power this year, has made improving ties with neighbouring India a priority.
Pakistan says more than 40,000 people have died in bomb and suicide attacks by Taliban and al-Qaeda-led fighters who oppose Islamabad’s alliance with the US.
Earlier on Sunday, the Pakistani Taliban demanded that the government release prisoners belonging to the group and begin withdrawing troops from its tribal sanctuary before it would participate in peace talks.
The Taliban’s leadership council decided on the need for confidence building measures while meeting to discuss the government’s offer to hold peace talks, the group’s spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said.
Pakistan’s major political parties endorsed peace talks with the Taliban last week as the best way to end its decade-long campaign.