Taliban 'revenge' toll rises to 89
The death toll from a double suicide bombing on a paramilitary police training centre in northwest Pakistan rose to 89 on Saturday, police said.
Pakistan's Taliban said Friday's attack in the town of Shabqadar, which also wounded around 140 people, 40 of them critically, was to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of US forces.
It was the deadliest attack this year in the nuclear-armed country where the government is in crisis over the killing of the Al Qaeda chief earlier this month.
"The death toll has risen to 89," district police chief Nisar Khan Marwat told AFP.
"There are five civilians among the dead and four other bodies which had been torn into pieces could not be identified yet," Marwat said.
The death toll was revised from a previous figure of 80.
Friday's explosions took place as newly trained paramilitary cadets, dressed in civilian clothes, were getting into buses for a 10-day leave, police said.
Shabqadar is close to Mohmand, which is in the lawless tribal belt that Washington has branded the headquarters of Al-Qaeda and where CIA drones carry out missile strikes on Taliban and other Islamist militant commanders.
There has been little public protest in support of bin Laden in a country where more people have been killed in bomb attacks in the past four years than the nearly 3,000 who died in Al-Qaeda's September 11, 2001 strikes on the US.
Pakistan lawmakers pledged Saturday there must be no repeat of the US commando raid that killed bin Laden and said drone strikes targeting terrorists near the border with Afghanistan must end.
Earlier, Pakistan's Taliban Friday claimed their first major strike in revenge for Osama bin Laden's death as at least 70 people were killed in a double suicide bombing on paramilitary police.
More than 100 people were wounded in the deadliest attack in the nuclear-armed Muslim country this year, which came with the government deep in crisis over the killing of the Al-Qaeda chief by US forces on May 2.
The explosions detonated in northwest Pakistan as newly trained paramilitary cadets were getting into buses and coaches for a 10-day leave after a training course, and they were wearing civilian clothes, police said.
"This was the first revenge for Osama's martyrdom. Wait for bigger attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan," Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.
"Two of our fedayeen (suicide bombers) carried out these attacks," he added.
The bombers blew themselves up outside a police training centre in Shabqadar town, about 30 kilometres (19 miles) north of Peshawar in the northwest region where Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants repeatedly attack security forces.
Ahmad Ali, a wounded paramilitary policeman, recalled the horror when the explosions turned a festive Friday morning into a bloodbath.
"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," he told AFP by telephone from Shabqadar hospital.
"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."
Police officials confirmed that at least 70 people had been killed, making it the deadliest attack in Pakistan since November 5 when a suicide bomber killed 68 people at a mosque in the northwest area of Darra Adam Khel.
"Both attacks were suicide attacks. The first suicide bomber came on a motorcycle and detonated his vest among the Frontier Constabulary (FC) men," said the police chief of the Charsadda district, Nisar Khan Marwat.
"When other FC people came to the rescue to help their colleagues, the second bomber came on another motorcycle and blew himself up."
He said that around 20 shops and 12 vehicles were destroyed in the intensity of the blasts and put the death toll at 70.
"Sixty-five of them are from the paramilitary police. Five dead bodies of civilians were taken to Shabqadar hospital," he added.
The Pakistani Taliban last week threatened to attack security forces to avenge bin Laden's killing in a US helicopter raid north of the capital Islamabad.
There has been little public protest in support of bin Laden in a country where more people have been killed in bomb attacks in the past four years than the nearly 3,000 who died in Al-Qaeda's September 11, 2001 attacks.
But under growing domestic pressure to punish Washington for the bin Laden raid, Pakistan's civilian government said Thursday it would review counter-terrorism cooperation with the United States.
It was unclear if the move was intended as a threat, but it showed the extent of the task facing US Senator John Kerry as he prepares to embark on a mission to shore up badly strained ties with Washington's fractious ally.
Washington did not inform Islamabad that an elite team of Navy SEALs had helicoptered into the garrison town of Abbottabad until the commandos had cleared Pakistani airspace, carrying with them bin Laden's corpse.
The covert night-time raid has plunged Pakistani politics into turmoil with both President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani are facing calls to resign.
Pakistanis have been outraged at the perceived impunity of the US raid, while asking whether their military was too incompetent to know bin Laden was living close to a major forces academy, or, worse, conspired to protect him.
Gilani chaired a defence committee meeting that decided "to institute an inter-agency process to clearly define the parameters of our cooperation with the US in counter-terrorism", an official statement said.
Washington is pressing Islamabad to investigate how bin Laden and several wives and children managed to live for five years under the noses of its military in Abbottabad, just 40 miles (65 kilometres) north of the capital.
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