Islamabad: A Pakistan army major general and a lieutenant colonel were killed Sunday when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb near the Afghan border in the militant-infested northwestern Khyber Pakthtunkhwa province, the military announced.

“Major General Sanaullaha General Officer commanding Swat Division, Lieutenant Colonel Tauseef embraced shahadat (martyrdom in) an improvised explosive device (IED) blast today near Pak-Afghan Border in Upper Deer,” the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement.

The major general had been visiting forward posts near the Pak-Afghan border for the last couple of days and when the officers were returning an IED “planted by terrorists” on the road side exploded resulting in the fatalities, the statement said.

President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif expressed condolences in separate statements.

Sharif said Pakistan army has made substantial sacrifices to protect the nation from the menace of terrorism and “such cowardly acts by terrorists cannot deter the morale of our armed forces.”

The banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the IED attack that killed two senior army officers near the Afghan border on Sunday, a local television channel said.

In a report on its website, Geo News channel said TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told its news anchor by telephone from an undisclosed location that the bomb attack was carried out by its Swat chapter and the umbrella organisation accepted the responsibility for the killing of a major general and a lieutenant colonel.

TTP spokesman said that the outfit’s central decision-making “shura” (council) has demanded troops pull out from insurgency-hit tribal areas in the northwest before holding negotiations, adding that the government had not made any formal contact with the militants so far.

In separate incidents, two personnel of a tribal Khasadar police force were killed and seven injured in an attack by terrorists in the town of Bannu on Sunday, according to an official media report.

A soldier of the Frontier Corps was killed and another injured when an explosive device planted by terrorists went off overnight in North Waziristan tribal area, known to be hub of foreign and local militants, the report said.

The attacks occurred at a time when the government of Sharif, who assumed the three and a half months ago, is preparing to open talks with local Taliban and allied militants after winning support from all major parties for the peace initiative.

According to official figures, more than 40,000 people including several thou security forces personnel have been killed as a result of bomb and suicide attacks in the country by militants amid the long-running conflict in the tribal region where troops have been battling insurgents.