Peshawar/Islamabad, May 13: Taliban suicide bombers today killed 80 people, mostly soldiers, at a paramilitary academy in northwest Pakistan, claiming it to be the "first revenge attack" for the slaying of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and vowed further "bloodshed" in retaliation.
Over 115 people were also injured when two bombers struck a large group of Frontier Constabulary personnel in attacks minutes apart outside the complex, hitting the soldiers as they were about to set off on leave after completing a year-long training course.
Eighty people, most of them Frontier Constabulary personnel, were killed, provincial Senior Minister Bashir Bilour told reporters.
The bombers, who came separately on motorcycles, struck the sprawling complex after dawn, with the first attacker detonating his explosive vest near the main gate of the Frontier Constabulary training centre at Shabqadar, 35 km from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa capital Peshawar.
Eight minutes later even as security personnel were removing the dead and injured from the spot, the second motorcycle-borne bomber struck creating mayhem at the centre, witnesses said.
Over 115 injured people were taken to hospitals in Shabqadar and Peshawar, officials said.
"The attack was the first revenge for the killing of Osama bin Laden," Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan told reporters in northwest Pakistan on phone from an undisclosed location.
He warned the militants would carry out "bigger attacks".
The Friday's attack was a deadliest in Pakistan this year and came as the country's military and civilian leadership are in crisis over the killing of bin Laden in garrison town of Abbottabad on May 2.
Police officials said they feared the death toll could rise. The condition of 40 injured at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar was described by officials as serious.
The Frontier Constabulary personnel had recently completed their year-long training and passed out during a parade held on May 5.
They were going home for a 10-day leave when the bombers struck, officials said.
Most of the personnel, who were in plainclothes, were sitting in mini buses when the bombers struck. The powerful blasts destroyed about 20 shops and a dozen vehicles in a market located opposite the gate of the training centre. At least eight civilians were among the dead, police said.
Footage on television showed rucksacks, footwear and other belongings lying scattered amidst pools of blood at the site of the attack.
Frontier Constabulary commandant Akbar Hoti told reporters that precautions taken by his force had limited casualties.
"We were taking precautions, such as sending the personnel on leave in batches of 15. More casualties were caused by the second blast," Hoti said.
This was the first major terrorist attack in Pakistan since al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in the US raid in Abbottabad, also in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
The Taliban and other militant groups had vowed to avenge bin Laden's death.
It was also the deadliest attack since November last year, when a suicide bomber killed nearly 70 people at a mosque at Darra Adam Khel in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The Frontier Constabulary, a poorly equipped force that has received US aid in recent years, has been at the forefront of the campaign against the Taliban in northwest Pakistan.
Scores of its personnel have died in bombings and suicide attacks by the Taliban.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack. Gilani said militants have no regard for human life or religion and were "pursuing their own nefarious agenda".
Reiterating his government's resolve to fight militancy, he said "such cowardly acts could not undermine the war against these elements".
The morale of the people is high, providing impetus to the government's efforts to eliminate militancy and extremism, Gilani said. PTI