BANNU: Immediately after the Bannu garrison blast which left 20 soldiers dead and 30 injured, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the deadly attack and, at the same time, said it wanted ‘meaningful’ dialogue with the government.

TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said in a statement that his organisation was ready for “sincere and meaningful” talks with the government. “Despite having suffered heavy losses we are ready for meaningful talks.”

He said a TTP suicide bomber had rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into the convoy of security forces at the entrance of Bannu garrison. “The attack was carried out to avenge the killing of our commander Waliur Rehman,” he said.

Waliur Rehman, deputy chief of the TTP, was killed in US drone strike in May last year.

AFP adds: “It was part of our fight against a secular system,” Shahidullah said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“We will carry out more such attacks in future,” he said, adding that Taliban were seeking revenge for the deaths of their former chief Hakeemullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman.

After Mehsud’s death, the Taliban vowed not to engage in any dialogue with the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

But Shahidullah said the group “is ready for meaningful negotiations despite facing huge leadership losses, if the government proves its authority and sincerity” by halting drone attacks and withdrawing troops from tribal areas.

Taliban insurgents have led a bloody campaign against the Pakistani state since 2007, staging hundreds of attacks on security forces and government targets.

Talat Masood, a retired general and security analyst, said recent assaults on the army were “testing the patience of the military” and were “extremely demoralising”.

The government has said it is seeking talks with the Taliban. But so far little progress has been seen and terror attacks rose 20 per cent in 2013, according to the independent Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies.

Mr Masood said the government’s policy was creating frustration within the army. “It is becoming evident to people that the government is so ineffective and paralysed and has no policy or strategy.”

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