Pakistan's Taliban has claimed responsibility for their first major attack to avenge Osama bin Laden's death, killing at least 80 people in a double suicide bombing against a paramilitary police-training center in the northwest of the country.
The twin suicide bombing targeted an academy of Pakistan's Frontier Corps in the town of Shabqadar outside of the biggest Frontier Corps training center in northwestern Pakistan -- an area where Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants repeatedly attack security forces.
Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said the attack also was aimed as punishment against Pakistani authorities for failing to stop the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden -- an attack that has sparked both nationalist and Islamist anger in Pakistan.
About 900 young men were leaving the base after spending some six months training there. Many had already boarded vans for their voyage, while others were loading luggage on top of the vehicles when the bombers struck.
In order to make the explosives more deadly, the bombers -- said to be in their late teens or early 20s -- had packed ball bearings and nails into their suicide vests, which became deadly shrapnel. The scene was littered with shards of glass mixed with the blood of the victims.
Bashir Ahmed Bilour, a senior minister in the provincial government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal that the dead included 69 members of the Frontier Corps and 11 civilians.
"For the people who say this is not our war, I would like them to tell that to those who were killed here today. Were they Americans? Were they infidels? Were they not Muslims?" Bilour said.
"These were Muslims and Pashtuns, after all. They were young boys who had just completed their training and were going to their homes to meet their parents and they were happy. Is this Islam? Is this the struggle for Islam?"
Today's twin bombing, in fact, was the deadliest attack in Pakistan since July 9, 2010 when bombers killed 105 people in Mohmand -- a nearby town in the lawless tribal belt that Washington has branded the headquarters of Al-Qaeda and where remotely operated CIA drone planes carry out missile strikes on Taliban and other Islamist militant commanders.
RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal spoke to survivors of the attack, including an injured bus driver who was meant to transport the newly trained recruits for a 10-day leave.
"The Frontier Corps recruits were going on leave and we were waiting with our vans to take them where the two blasts took place," the man said. "My arm was injured."
Paramilitary cadet Abdul Waheed Shah was among those who was meant to board the buses. He told Reuters he survived the attacks because he had just gone back inside his room at the academy when the bombers struck.
"I saw my colleagues standing at the gate and returned to my room. Just as I entered the room, there was a blast," Shah said.
"We rushed out and started collecting the dead and injured. Then we brought them to the hospital here and donated our blood for them."Cadets Gathered For Second Bomber
The first attacker reportedly rode a motorcycle into the group of cadets and then detonated his explosives-laden vest.
Government officials said the newly trained cadets made the mistake of congregating around the bomb site after the first explosion -- making them an easier target for the second attacker who also drove a motorcycle.
Jan Said was near the site when the suicide bombers detonated their explosives.
"I arrived immediately after the blast. We put the dead bodies in rickshaws and whatever vehicles we could find," Said said.
"We have brought some of the injured here. We have also filled all the hospitals over there [in Charsadda district]."
The attack is seen as a significant blow for Pakistan's Frontier Corps, a poorly equipped front-line force that has received funding from the United States to help fight Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants along the Afghan-Pakistani border.written by Ron Synovitz; with contributions from RFE/RL's Radio Free Mashaal acting director Daud Khattak, and agency reports