Published on
the Irish Times

Scores Die in Pakistan Bombings


Men bring coffins to a hospital morgue in Peshawar, for the victims of a suicide bomb blast in Charsadda today. (K. Parvez/Reuters)

A twin bomb attack near Pakistan's northwestern city of Charsadda has killed 80 people, most of them police cadets, in the largest attack in the country since the killing of Osama bin Laden by the US.

US special forces flew in from Afghanistan to find and kill bin Laden at his hideout in a northern Pakistani town on May 2nd.

Pakistan welcomed the killing of bin Laden as a major step against militancy but was outraged by the secret US raid, saying it was a violation of its sovereignty.

The discovery of bin Laden living in the town of Abbottabad, near the country's top military academy, has deepened suspicion in the United States that Pakistani security forces knew where he was hiding.

Bin Laden's followers have vowed revenge for his death and the Pakistani Taliban said today’s attack by two suicide bombers on a paramilitary academy in the northwestern town of Charsadda was their first taste of vengeance.

"Our leader Hakimullah Mehsud has said that today's attack was reaction to Osama's martyrdom and operations by the Pakistan army in the tribal areas," Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said in a phone call from an undisclosed location.

"Mehsud said quite some planning has been done and this was the first of many bombings to come. We had already said we will first target Pakistan and then the US."

The attackers struck as the recruits were going on leave and 65 of them were among the 80 dead. Pools of blood strewn with soldiers’ caps and shoes lay on the road outside the academy as the wounded, looking dazed with parts of their clothes ripped away by shrapnel, were loaded into trucks.

The bomb attack was a grim reminder of the militant threat Pakistan faces even as bin Laden's discovery 50km from the capital has revived suspicion of Pakistani double-dealing.

The Pakistan Taliban, close allies of al-Qaeda, are fighting to bring down the nuclear-armed state and impose their vision of Islamist rule. They launched their war in earnest in 2007, after security forces cleared militant gunmen from a radical mosque in the capital, killing about 100 people.

Pakistan has long used militants as proxies to oppose the influence of its old rival India, and is widely believed to be helping some factions even while battling others. It has rejected as absurd suggestions its security agencies might have known where bin Laden was hiding.

The United States has long pressed Pakistan to tackle Afghan Taliban taking shelter in Pakistani enclaves on the border but the chance of greater cooperation with the United States appears to have been dented by the US raid to get bin Laden.

The chairman of Pakistan's joint chiefs of staff committee, General Khalid Shameem Wynne, has cancelled a five-day visit to the United States beginning on May 22nd.

The Pakistani military and government have also come in for criticism at home, partly for failing to find bin Laden but more for failing to detect or stop the unauthorised US raid to kill him.

The United States has made clear it will go after militants in Pakistan when it finds them and it has stepped up attacks in the northwest with its drone aircraft - another source of friction between the uneasy allies - since bin Laden's death.

Pakistan officially objects to the attacks, although US officials say they are carried out on an understanding with Pakistan.

"There are absolutely no plans at present to cease or scale back US counterterrorism operations in Pakistan," one US official said. "Efforts to thwart terrorism will continue."


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