A bomb explosion in northwest Pakistan along the Afghanistan border has killed five security personnel, the Pakistani military said Thursday.

The three paramilitary soldiers and two police officers were conducting a “cordon and search operation” in Bajaur district late Wednesday when an improvised explosive device hit them, the military’s media wing said in a statement.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility, but suspicions immediately fell on the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), known as the Pakistani Taliban. 

Bajaur and surrounding Pakistani border districts served as strongholds of the banned militant group until recent years.

TTP, also designated as a global terrorist organization by the United States and the United Nations, has claimed responsibility for killing thousands of Pakistanis in bombings and other attacks since the group’s emergence in 2007.

The Pakistan military has carried out sustained operations against TTP bases, killing thousands of fighters and forcing others to take refuge on the Afghan side of the border. The operations led to a decline of more than 80% in terrorist attacks across Pakistan in the past few years.

Pakistani officials, however, note an uptick in TTP attacks since the start of the year, killing scores of people, mostly security forces.

The militant group is known to have close ties with the Afghan Taliban and assisted them in their two-decade long insurgency against U.S.-led international forces to oust the Western-backed government in Afghanistan.

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