ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan on Thursday demanded neighboring Afghanistan's Taliban rulers prevent terrorist attacks coming from their soil, a day after a suicide bombing in Pakistan's southwest sent a wave of shock and anger across the country.
The bombing killed four people and appeared to target police protecting polio workers in the area. Islamabad blamed the attack on the Pakistani Taliban fighters who are hiding across the border in Afghanistan.
At a news conference, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said the latest claim by the Pakistani Taliban underlined the threat of Afghanistan turning into a haven for militants, despite its Taliban rulers saying they would prevent such attacks from their soil, after they seized control of Afghanistan last year.
Khan said if the claim by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, known as TTP, is correct that they were behind the previous day's attack in in the city of Quetta, “then it should be a matter of concern for the Taliban."
Authorities said the attack killed a police officer and three civilians when the bomber blew himself near a police truck. The bombing also wounded 23 others, drawing nationwide condemnation.
The attack in the main city of Pakitan's Baluchistan province happened as the police were heading to the polio workers as part of a nationwide vaccination drive launched Monday. The blast was so powerful that it toppled the truck carrying police officers into a ravine.
The latest violence came after the Pakistani Taliban ended a ceasefire with Islamabad this week and vowed that it would immediately resume attacks across the country.
On Wednesday, the TTP said it launched the attack in Baluchistan to avenge the killing of their former spokesperson, Abdul Wali, who was known as Omar Khalid Khurasani. He was killed in a bombing in Afghanistan’s Paktika province in August.
Enayatullah Khawarazmi, the spokesman for the Afghan Taliban’s Defense Ministry, rejected the allegation made by Pakistan.
“We once again assure all the countries of the region and the world that Afghanistan’s soil will never be used against other countries,” he said.
The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group but allied with Afghanistan's Taliban, who have ruled their country since the U.S. and NATO troops withdrew last year. The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan emboldened their Pakistani allies, whose top leaders and fighters are hiding in the next door country.
Before ending the ceasefire, senior TTP commanders held several rounds of peace talks with Pakistani officials in Kabul after the Afghan Taliban encouraged both sides to do so. After agreeing to a ceasefire in May, both sides have blamed each other for violating the terms, until the TTP unilaterally ended it this week.
Since then, Pakistani Taliban has stepped up attacks on security forces in the former tribal regions bordering Afghanistan and elsewhere in the country.
This week, Pakistan's deputy Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar traveled to Kabul, where she discussed a range of issues with Afghan officials, including the TTP's presence in Afghanistan.
Khan, the interior minister, said about 5,000 TTP fighters were hiding in Afghanistan along with their families.
Meanwhile, TTP in a brief statement Thursday claimed that it targeted a security convoy near an army-run school in South Waziristan, a border region that served as the base for Taliban for years until Pakistan's military killed or arrested most of the insurgents in a series of operations.
There was no confirmation from the military about Thursday's attack in South Waziristan.
Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez contributed to this story.