Bombers take bin Laden revenge in Pakistan; U.S. ties cool

Reuters , Friday 13 May 2011

Two Suicide bombs attack Pakistani paramilitary academy leaving 80 soldiers dead, in revenge for the death of Osama bin Laden

Suicide bombers attacked a Pakistani paramilitary academy on Friday, killing 80 people in revenge for the death of Osama bin Laden as Pakistani anger over the U.S. raid to get the al Qaeda leader showed no sign of abating.

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

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

The discovery of bin Laden in the town of Abbottabad, near the country's top military academy, has, however, 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 the Friday attack by two suicide bombers on a paramilitary academy in the northwestern town of Charsadda was their first taste of vengeance.

"There will be more," militant spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

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.

Shahid Ali, 28, was on his way to his shop when the bombs went off. He tried to help survivors. "A young boy was lying near a wrecked van asked me to take him to hospital. I got help and we got him into a vehicle," Ali said.

Hours after the bombing, a U.S. drone aircraft fired missiles at a vehicle in the North Waziristan region on the Afghan border, killing five militants, Pakistani security officials said.

It was the fourth drone attack since bin Laden was killed, inflaming another sore issue between Pakistan and the United States. Pakistan officially objects to these attacks, saying they violate its sovereignty. It also says the civilians casualties complicate its efforts to fight militants by gaining the support of local villagers.

The United States says the drone strikes are carried out under an agreement with Pakistan and it has made clear it will go after militants in Pakistan when it finds them.

The bomb attack was a grim reminder of the militant threat Pakistan faces even as bin Laden's discovery 50 km (30 miles) 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 U.S. 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 22.

"He called his U.S. counterpart ... and informed him that the visit could not be undertaken under existing circumstances," a military official told Reuters.

He did not elaborate but the decision to cancel the visit came as the cabinet defense committee said it was reviewing cooperation with the United States on counter-terrorism.

The parameters of such cooperation would be clearly defined "in accordance with Pakistan's national interests and the aspirations of the people", the committee said in a statement.

The 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 U.S. raid to kill him.

Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani will be at a closed-door briefing by military officials to parliament later on Friday.

Some U.S. lawmakers have called for suspending aid to Pakistan because of doubts about its commitment in going after violent Islamists.

But President Barack Obama's administration has stressed the importance of maintaining cooperation with Pakistan in the interests of battling militancy and bringing stability to neighbouring Afghanistan.

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