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.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but suspicion is likely to fall on the Pakistani Taliban or their allies, who have often targeted the military in their war against the state.
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.
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 near the capital are much rarer. 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.
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."
Pakistan and Afghanistan have long traded accusations of allowing their territory to be used 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 included Pakistan launching 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 and Anwarullah Khan in Khar, Bajaur contributed to this report.