The Pakistani Taliban claimed a twin-suicide attack in the country’s northwest that left more than 80 people dead and about 100 wounded Friday. They called the bombings revenge for the US killing of Osama bin Laden earlier this month in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
“We have done this to avenge the Abbottabad incident,” Ahsanullah Ahsan, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman, told the Associated Press, also warning that additional strikes could target Americans in Pakistan.
The attack was the deadliest to occur in Pakistan this year, and targeted paramilitary recruits in the Shabqadir area of Charsadda district. Analysts say that the attack shows that Pakistan’s troubles persist even with Mr. bin Laden gone, with the Taliban using anger over his death as an excuse to engage Pakistani forces in an area that has seen heavy fighting for the past four years.
“They have cloaked it as a revenge attack for Osama bin Laden’s killing but I don’t think deep down many Taliban eyes will shed tears for him,” says Rifaat Hussain, a security analyst at the Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad. He adds: “This is something the Taliban are doing to send a signal to the government – if you are thinking to move against us because of international pressure, there will be huge cost.”
According to local reports, Frontier Constabulary cadets in plain clothes were boarding buses to go on leave when a suicide bomber on motorcycle struck. Another blast followed shortly after.
“I heard someone shouting ‘Allah Akbar’ 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,” recruit Ahmad Ali told Agence France-Presse.
According to Brig. Shaukat Qadri (ret.), the attack should serve as a reminder that “Pakistan’s problems do not end with Osama,” adding that today’s attack could be spillover from fighting between Pakistani forces and militants in the nearby Mohmand tribal area. The Pakistani military is currently engaged in major operations in the Orakzai, Khurram, and Khyber tribal agencies while maintaining a smaller presence in Mohmand, Bajaur, and South Waziristan.
Speaking to reporters at the scene, Bashir Ahmed Bilour, a senior minister from the Khyber-Pakhtunkwa Province, said that those who carried out the Abbottabad raid, which he termed a violation of sovereignty, should note the losses Pakistanis are taking. “Look at how many were martyred today,” he said.
The attacks come as Pakistan’s military prepares to give a briefing to parliament today on the intelligence failings that allowed bin Laden to live in the garrison town of Abbottabad. The US raid has undermined confidence in the country’s military establishment and plunged the weak civilian government further into crisis.