The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility Friday for suicide attacks on a military training facility in the nation’s northwest, saying that they were in relation for the killing of terror leader Osama bin Laden.
The twin suicide bombings killed at least 80 people, nearly all of them military recruits who had just completed their training, said Bashir Ahmad Bilour, a senior provincial minister. About 140 others were injured.
“Pakistani and the U.S. forces should be ready for more attacks,” said Ihsan Ullah Ihsan, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, who accused the Pakistani military of telling the United States where bin Laden was. “Osama was our great leader and the killers of Osama will have to pay its price,” he said. (CNN)
“It’s the first revenge for the martyrdom of … Bin Laden. There will be more,” Taliban spokesman Ensanullah Ehsan told the Reuters news agency by telephone from an undisclosed location. (BBC)
The back to back explosions took place shortly after scores of recruits left the Shabqadar Fort, a training facility in the district of Charsadda, said Jahan Zeb Khan, a senior police officer. The blood-soaked ground outside the training facility was littered with burned vehicles and broken glass. The recruits had just completed a nine-month training program.
“Both attacks were suicide attacks,” said the police chief of Charsadda district, Nisar Khan Marwat. “The first suicide bomber came on a motorcycle and detonated his vest among the Frontier Constabulary men,” AFP news agency quoted him as saying. “When other [Frontier Constabulary] people came to the rescue to help their colleagues, the second bomber came on another motorcycle and blew himself up.” (BBC)
“I was sitting in a van waiting for my colleagues. We were in plain clothes and we were happy we were going to see our families,” Ahmad Ali, a wounded praramilitary policeman, told AFP. “I heard someone shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [God is great] and then I heard a huge blast. I was hit by something in my back shoulder. In the meantime, I heard another blast and I jumped out of the van. I felt that I was injured and bleeding.” (BBC)
Lady Reading hospital in Peshawar has been inundated with casualties and doctors said they were fighting to save the lives of 40 critically injured cadets.
After Friday’s parliamentary briefing, Pakistan’s information minister said Lieut.-Gen. Pasha had told MPs he was ready to take responsibility for any criminal failing. “If any of our responsibility is determined and any gap identified, that our negligence was criminal negligence, and there was an intentional failure, then we are ready to face any consequences,” said the minister, Firdous Ashiq Awan, citing the general. “We had already killed all his allies and so we had killed him even before he was dead,” Mr. Awan cited Lieut.-Gen. Pasha as saying. (BBC)
The district of Charsadda borders Mohmand Agency, one of seven districts in Pakistan’s tribal region along the Afghan border. Mohmad is believed to be a hideout for Taliban fighters and al Qaeda-linked militants fleeing last year’s military operation in the district of South Waziristan and ongoing U.S. drone strikes in North Waziristan. The Pakistani army has carried out numerous ground and air operations in Mohmand but they haven’t been able to stamp out the militants.
The Pakistani Taliban represents a confederation of Taliban groups in northwestern Pakistan, where they are based, according to Bill Roggio, military-affairs analyst who is the managing editor of The Long War Journal. Those fighters make attacks on Pakistani targets and cross the border into Afghanistan for attacks. They are different from the Afghan Taliban, focused on re-establishing the Islamic Empirate in Afghanistan. The group is headquartered in Quetta, Pakistan. Both groups swear allegiance to Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, and have close links to al Qaeda.
Last December, around 150 militants ambushed six security checkpoints in Mohmand, killing 11 Pakistani soldiers, officials told CNN. Earlier in December, a twin suicide attack targeting a government building in Mohmand killed at least 40 people.
Sikandar Hayat Khan Sherpao, a member of the provincial assembly of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, said the training facility hit that was attacked, at Shabqadar Fort, had been a frequent target of militant attacks before. “Basically, the threat is from Mohmand Agency, where militants still have pockets and are active,” he said. “I feel that this attack is not in retaliation to the Abbottabad incident,” he added. “Basically, in the last one and a half months, a new military operation has been started in Mohmand as the army is going against militants. So the attack can be seen as a retaliation to the Mohmand operation.” (New York Times)