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Suicide Bomb in Pakistan, Retaliation for Bin Laden, Kills At Least 70

Two suicide bombings in Shabqadar, Pakistan, at a paramilitary base, killed scores of recruits while they were boarding buses to return home for a break. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

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.

“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 Pakistani Taliban should not be confused with the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan has declared war on their homegrown Taliban; they have not done so with the Afghan Taliban, who are suspected to have free reign inside the country to plot attacks. In fact, many of the Pakistani Taliban seek refuge in Afghanistan, with the opposite being true of the Afghan Taliban. In addition, Jane Perlez writes that this could be the work of a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban. She puts the death toll at 80.

So it’s complicated. But in general terms, this tells you two things. First, the Pakistani Taliban and their splinter factions probably don’t have the operational capacity to project terrorist attacks beyond regional borders. Perhaps they can cause trouble in Afghanistan, but they chose a military outpost of the group that threatens them the most – the Pakistani military. Second, they blame Pakistan, perhaps for working with the United States on the death of bin Laden, or perhaps just for fighting them. I would suspect that many of the Pakistani Taliban don’t buy the cover story about Pakistan not knowing about the nighttime raid in Abbottabad either, but that’s just speculation.

Pakistan’s military chief is resisting efforts by the United States to persuade them to go after more militants and extremists, and the civilian government promised to “review” counter-terrorism operations with the United States. Gen. Ashfaq Kayani wants to reduce the reliance of Pakistan on the United States. When you see mass bombings like this, and how Pakistanis – especially in the military – pay the price for the so-called war on terror, you start to understand that. They have their own militant groups targeting them, which are seemingly not of interest to the United States. The US wants the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Omar, Al Qaeda operatives, the Haqqani network. Pakistan’s main concern are homegrown Taliban and India. Not much else is in their national interest or their capacity to deal with.

That’s not to say that the US will get no cooperation from Pakistan in the future. In fact, the outrage from the Pakistanis has been relatively mild. In addition, the US just got to interview bin Laden’s wives. They didn’t have much to say, and faced the US interrogators with hostility.

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David Dayen

David Dayen