South Asia

Pakistan suicide blasts: Carnage in Shabqadar town

Men bring coffins to a hospital morgue in Peshawar, for the victims of a suicide bomb blast in Charsadda May 13, 2011.
Image caption Most of the dead were paramilitary recruits from the Frontier Constabulary

The Taliban says it carried out the deadly attack on a paramilitary training academy in the small town of Shabqadar in north-western Pakistan, which left at least 80 dead. BBC Persian TV's Harun Najafizada describes the carnage at the scene of the blast.

We arrived three hours after the blast and came upon a landscape of utter chaos. It is the kind of scene that has become all too common across Pakistan in recent years - but never fails to shock.

All the shops in the area were shuttered. Some of them had been partly destroyed because of the immense force of the two blasts. People were standing around in small groups - they just couldn't believe what had happened.

One blood-soaked bystander, Sajjad Ali, told me how he had carried some of the injured to hospital over his shoulders.

"The government has to stop this insecurity now. It is very difficult for us - it makes us unhappy. We are being targeted. We are being harmed. It is hurting us every day," he said.

Local politicians toured the scene, and the paramilitary personnel who had been targeted wandered around in a daze.

Human body parts could be seen scattered about. There was a lot of blood. And on the ground there was the remains of a large metal object which had literally been blown to smithereens. Police say this was the motorcycle used by one of the bombers.

Officials and eyewitnesses say two suicide bombers detonated their devices five minutes apart. But these were bombs designed to cause the largest number of casualties possible. They sprayed out hundreds of ball bearings which shot like bullets and pierced everything around.

All metal objects nearby, cars, vans, metal shop shutters bore the marks of these projectiles. Many of the dead bodies had been removed and the injured were in hospital.

Taliban fear

People found it hard to digest that this had actually happened to them. They said they are used to listening to the news from across Pakistan - but they never thought they would be in the firing line.

Image caption The blast left people in the town of Shabqadar in shock

The first bomb went off at 0600. The second one was detonated five or six minutes later. It was loud and it was terrifying, people said.

They also pointed out that had the blasts occurred later in the day, hundreds could have lost their lives. Although Shabqadar is a small town, this is a busy area.

The paramilitary training academy was on the main street right in the middle of a market that gets busier as the day goes on. At the time of the blast there were only a few shopkeepers and customers around.

Shabqadar is close to the border with the tribal regions and has a different atmosphere to most ordinary Pakistani towns and cities. Mohmand tribal agency, where Taliban militants have a foothold, is not far away. There is a sense of fragility here, a sense that anything could happen.

There is a mosque close to the scene of the blast and the mullah began preaching before Friday prayers. His speech was broadcast across the town on loudspeakers. But not once did he mention the bombing that had taken place only hours earlier.

He spoke of how Muslims should not drink wine, should not run after women and how they should strive for a truly pure Islamic life.

'Young and scared'

But even as a series of yellow coffins carrying the bodies of some of the young paramilitary recruits were brought out of the academy, he never once touched upon the suicide attack.

He might have been scared to talk about the Taliban, to condemn them, possibly because the area is so close to the tribal regions where they do have influence.

This bomb targeted the paramilitary Frontier Constabulary. I saw some of the colleagues of the dead emerge from the academy later. They had been due to go on leave but their departure was postponed by the blast.

These are the men who are eventually deployed along Pakistan's restive border with Afghanistan and the border with Iran.

They looked very young as they rushed out of the main entrance, with its big doors and colourful writing on the front. They carried big bags on their backs, bound for a holiday at home.

But they looked upset and they also looked scared.

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