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Pakistani bombings kill 80

The twin attacks outside a paramilitary base appear to be the first major militant strike in Pakistan since the slaying of Osama bin Laden.

May 13, 2011|By Alex Rodriguez and Zulfiqar Ali, Los Angeles Times
  • The injured are taken to a Peshawar hospital after twin bomb attacks at a paramilitary training center.
The injured are taken to a Peshawar hospital after twin bomb attacks at a… (Arshad Arbab, EPA )

Reporting from Islamabad and Peshawar, Pakistan — Two bomb blasts outside a Pakistani paramilitary base killed 80 people near the city of Charsadda on Friday in what appeared to be the first major militant attack in the country since the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The Pakistani Taliban took responsibility for the bombings in a phone call to Associated Press. "We have done this to avenge the Abbottabad incident," the group told AP, while warning that it was also planning attacks on Americans living inside Pakistan.

The target of the attack apparently was a group of recruits for the Frontier Constabulary paramilitary force, which provides security in Pakistan's volatile northwest, where several militant groups maintain strongholds, local authorities said.

The recruits were waiting at a bus stop outside the base when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle packed with explosives rammed into a line of buses.

Moments later, a second explosion occurred. Police believe the second blast came from a bomb planted in a donkey cart.

The recruits had finished their nine months of training and were on their way home on leave.

The base is in Shabqadar, a town near the edge of Mohmand, a tribal area where Pakistani troops have struggled for years to rein in Pakistani Taliban militants.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, according to news services.

Nisar Ali Marwat, a senior police official, said at least 69 people died and about 75 were injured in the bombings. The death toll was later revised upward to 80. The injured were taken to a hospital in Peshawar, northwestern Pakistan's largest city.

Television footage showed mangled cars and vans alongside a line of damaged market stalls.

Imdad Bacha, a witness, said at least 15 buses that had lined up at the bus stop were damaged.

"The soldiers were loading their luggage onto the buses when the first explosion hit," Bacha said. When onlookers rushed to the scene to help the injured, a second blast rocked the area.

A vegetable vendor at the site said some recruits were seated in white minivans and others were loading luggage atop the vehicles.

"There was a big blast," he told the Associated Press. "I saw smoke, blood and body pieces all around."

After Bin Laden was killed by U.S. commandos in the military city of Abbottabad on May 2, militant groups vowed to retaliate with a wave of attacks.

The Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups regard the Pakistani government as a subservient ally of the United States and routinely target security installations, markets, mosques and shrines.

Earlier this week, hundreds of militants marched through the streets of Wana in the South Waziristan tribal region to vent their anger over Bin Laden's death and vowed to avenge his killing.

Times staff writer Rodriguez reported from Islamabad and special correspondent Ali from Peshawar. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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