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Pakistan bombings and Taliban admits Shabqadar attacks

Pakistan bombings and Taliban admits Shabqadar attacks

Twin bomb attacks on a paramilitary force academy in north-west Pakistan have killed 80 people, police say.

At least 120 people were wounded in the blasts at the training centre for the Frontier Constabulary in Shabqadar, Charsadda district.

After early suspicions that one of the bombs was planted, police said both blasts were suicide attacks.

The Pakistani Taliban said they carried out the attack to avenge the death of Osama Bin Laden earlier this month.

The al-Qaeda leader was killed during a US commando raid in the northern Pakistani town of Abbottabad on 2 May.

'Deadliest attack'

The bombings happened as newly trained cadets from the Frontier Constabulary were getting into buses for a short period of leave after completing their course.

The Frontier Constabulary is used to police the regions bordering Pakistan's tribal areas.

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The attack on this paramilitary police academy comes days after the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and in the wake of Taliban threats to avenge him. But regular and tribal police forces have been a target of Taliban militants based in the nearby Mohmand tribal region since 2007.

Together with its northern neighbour, Bajaur, Mohmand has been home to local militants claiming allegiance to an anti-Pakistan Taliban group called TTP. At the same time, the area is home to militant groups close to al-Qaeda's thinking, such as the one led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

After 9/11, Bajaur served as the first sanctuary for foreign fighters linked to al-Qaeda. In May 2009, security forces in Mohmand captured five Arab fighters and had to fight a three-hour long gun battle with local Taliban to prevent them from freeing the Arabs.

But al-Qaeda does not have any military capability in the area and is dependent on support from local militants. Analysts expect these militants to use Bin Laden's killing as an excuse to launch similar attacks in coming days

"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."

At least 66 of the dead were recruits, but there were also civilian casualties, officials say. A number of vehicles were destroyed in the blast.

"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 paramilitary 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."

Security forces sealed off the area and the wounded were taken to a hospital in nearby Peshawar.

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.

"It's the first revenge for the martyrdom of... Bin Laden. There will be more," Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told the Reuters news agency by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Shabqadar lies on the border with Afghanistan, about 35km (22 miles) north-west of Peshawar, not far from the militant stronghold of Mohmand.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool, in Islamabad, says the security forces have often been the target of such attacks as they fight the Pakistani Taliban across the north-west of the country, but Friday's bombing is the deadliest attack this year.

He adds that the Pakistani army - which has come under intense scrutiny and criticism over the Bin Laden affair - is likely to point out that this attack is an illustration of the sacrifices it has made in the so-called "war on terror".

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Army chiefs are appearing before parliament to explain their actions over the death of Bin Laden.

Our correspondent says many politicians and members of the public appear to be less concerned about Bin Laden's presence in Pakistan and more about the way the US was able to carry out its raid without official permission.

The US gives billions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid to Pakistan, but has questioned its reliability as an ally in combating the militants.

In recent years, Taliban militants have killed hundreds of people in bombings and other attacks across Pakistan.

Posted on Friday 13th May 2011

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