Bombings Target Pakistani Security Force Recruits

May 13, 2011

Julie McCarthy

A. Majeed
Pakistani soldiers cordon off the suicide and bomb attack site outside the Frontier Constabulary in Shabqadar, which is about 19 miles north of Peshawar. Pakistan's Taliban said the attack was revenge for Osama bin Laden's death.

At least 80 people were killed and more than 100 wounded Friday in double suicide bombings in the northwest Pakistani city of Charsadda.

It was the deadliest attack ever on Pakistan's Frontier Constabulary, a force that supports local police in the troubled Northwest Frontier. The victims were largely newly initiated recruits.

The targeting of the young cadets appeared to be the retaliation that had been threatened for the death of Osama bin Laden, who was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan last week.

Heading Home When Struck Down

The new inductees were boarding buses near the main gate of the Frontier Constabulary training center at Shabqadar Fort in Charsadda, two hours from the capital, Islamabad.

They were heading home for a short break after their six-month training. Local authorities say as the cadets exchanged goodbyes in the early morning, a suicide bomber detonated explosives near the gate of the training center, drawing others to the scene to rescue victims. Minutes later, a second suicide attacker struck the gathering crowd, ensuring maximum casualties.

Multiple Motives?

Tehrik-e-Taliban, or Pakistani Taliban, told a news agency that they carried out the attack on Charsadda to avenge bin Laden's killing.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday that the Obama administration remains vigilant about the fact that terrorists, whether they are organized or lone wolves, may try to respond with revenge attacks.

But Pakistani authorities cautioned against jumping to the conclusion that Friday's deadly assault was retaliation for bin Laden's killing, saying in the complex war against extremists there could be multiple motives behind the attack.

Pakistani police officials suggested that the carnage in Charsadda was the work of militants in the tribal area that lies next door in Mohmand agency, and that the attack could have been a reprisal against the Pakistan army for having waged a ferocious battle against a tenacious militancy in Mohmand.

Mohmand militants are loyal to Omar Khalid. According to the website The Long War Journal, he is considered one of the Taliban's most effective leaders in Pakistan's tribal areas, with close ties to al-Qaida, and he is believed to have given safe haven at one point to al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Friday's attack was a gruesome reminder of the havoc the militancy is wreaking on Pakistan and the price its security forces are paying, even as the country faces suspicions that elements within its security forces may have helped harbor bin Laden.

A Closed-Door Military Briefing

The U.S. mission in which bin Laden was captured and killed at his compound in the Pakistani military town of Abbottabad was the subject of a closed-door briefing in Parliament on Friday.

According to lawmakers, Gen. Shuja Pasha, chief of Pakistan's intelligence services, told Parliament that the undetected U.S. landing at bin Laden's Pakistani compound represented a failure of intelligence, and that he would resign if Parliament sought it.

Pakistani media reported that members of Parliament shouted "shame, shame" as Pasha spoke — an extraordinary turn of fortunes for his institution, which has historically enjoyed unquestioned power.

The revelation that bin Laden lived in a secret compound in Abbottabad, also the home of the prestigious Pakistan Military Academy, has deeply embarrassed Pakistan's army and its security establishment.

Pakistani television reported that Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the chief of the army, walked out of the National Assembly briefing as a tense question-and-answer session got under way. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.