CHARSADDA, Pakistan — Twin suicide bombings outside a paramilitary training center in Pakistan’s northwest killed least 80 people, in what appeared to be militants’ first major retaliatory attack since the death of Osama bin Laden.
The massive explosions targeted new recruits for Pakistan’s Frontier Constabulary in Charsadda, about an hour’s drive from the capital, Islamabad. The recruits had just finished morning prayers and were boarding buses that would take them on home leave, said Jehanzeb Khan, a senior police officer in Charsadda.
The Pakistani Taliban, a homegrown offshoot of the Afghan militant group, said it had carried out the attack to avenge bin Laden’s killing by U.S. commandos, according to news services. That claim could deepen anger over the raid in Pakistan, which has been condemned by officials and the public here as an embarrassing violation of territorial sovereignty.
“This was the first revenge for Osama’s martyrdom. Wait for bigger attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said by telephone, according to Agence France-Presse.
Police said the first blast occurred just before 6 a.m., when a bomber approached the training center on foot. That prompted dozens more recruits to pour out into the street, where a motorcycle bomber passed minutes later and detonated his explosives, killing scores more, police said.
Bashir Ahmed Bilour, a government minister for the surrounding Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, said 69 recruits and 11 civilians had been killed. At least 140 people were injured, he said.
More than 800 recruits graduated from their one-year course on May 5, and they were eagerly lining up to depart on home leave Friday morning, authorities said. The Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary force made up of men from Pakistan’s border regions, receives training from U.S. special forces.
The Taliban accuse the U.S.–backed government and security forces of being puppets in what they deem an American war against Muslims. They, along with other Islamist insurgents, vowed to avenge bin Laden’s May 2 killing with attacks on state installations.
“What did they achieve? Who was killed? I ask you and those who claimed responsbility,” Bilour said to reporters at the scene. “Did they kill Americans or young innocent recruits who were about to leave for their native towns?”
Bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in the military-dominated city of Abbottabad, which is also in Pakistan’s northwest, in an operation that has intensified suspicions in Washington that Pakistan’s military harbors militants. Officials from both countries say Pakistan was not told about or involved in the raid, and Pakistani officials have said the unilateral operation could endanger bilateral relations.
“Now those who did the Abbottabad operation should come and see how we are killed and our kids’ blood is shed,” Bilour said Friday. “We are not a commodity that can be purchased.”
Pakistan’s powerful army and intelligence chiefs are scheduled to brief parliament on the bin Laden case Friday in a private session.
Charsadda borders the Mohmand region of Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt, where the Taliban, al-Qaeda and potpourri of other militant organizations are based. The Pakistani army recently re-launched an offensive in Mohmand, where several previous operations have failed to flush out militants.
Many militant attacks in recent years have targeted Pakistani security forces and soldiers, more than 3,000 of whom have been killed in counter-insurgency operations in the northwest. A Taliban source, speaking anonymously to The Washington Post on Friday, disputed his organization’s statement, saying the attack was intended to punish the military for the Mohmand offensive, not for bin Laden’s killing.
After the blasts, the area outside training center gate was littered with broken glass, body parts, bloodstains and single shoes.
“I lost many friends,” said one bleeding 20-year-old recruit, who declined to give his name. “What did we do wrong?”
Two men with whom bin Laden lived, Arshad and Tariq Khan, were linked by property records and identity cards to Charsadda, but Pakistani authorities have cast doubt on the authenticity of the documents.
Brulliard reported from Islamabad. http://www.washingtonpost...05/12/AFdoRh1G_story.html