Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the local government is demanding a decisive operation against militants responsible for the attack.
“These acts of terror will continue both in Pakistan and Afghanistan”, Hussain told IPS, adding it was time to go after militants operating in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. The FATA is composed of seven administrative units located between Afghanistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and is directly managed by the federal government.
Some 800 recruits of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) were waiting for their rides home after completing a six-month training when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a car just outside the gates of Shabqadar.
“I was just thinking about going home and congratulating my parents that I have completed training, and that now I would be getting a permanent job,” said 21-year-old FC recruit Hidaytullah, who was among the 140 wounded.
A resident of the northern city of Mardan, Hidaytullah said they came out and were just waiting for buses like normal passengers when the bombing took place.
“There was blood and human flesh all around. All the people felt terrified,” he said.
Retired Major Khalid Khan, who has taken part in military operations in the South Waziristan agency of FATA and is familiar with the modus operandi of the Taliban, said the group had been shaken by the killing of Osama bin Laden and will now use all their strength to take revenge.
Bin Laden was shot and killed by US forces in a May 1 raid on a compound in Abbottabad, some 190 kilometres northeast of Peshawar.
“The Taliban cannot target US forces or citizens directly or indirectly, so they have diverted their attention to targeting Pakistanis,” he said.
Khan said it was from their base in FATA that militants have managed to launch their attacks. “The militants have established training centres in FATA from where they send logistics for terrorist activities to any place they want,” Khan told IPS.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa senior minister and Awami National Party leader Bashir Bilour said the Taliban should spare innocent people and instead bare their teeth to US forces, which killed their leader, bin Laden.
“We have not killed Osama. He was killed by the US There is no point of taking revenge against the people who have no connection with Osama's death,” Bilour told IPS.
Residents here believe it is the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an alliance of militant groups, that is behind the Shabqadar attack. The TTP has been targeting innocent civilians and looks up to bin Laden as its leader.
Muhammad Omar, a student at the University of Peshawar, said the TTP is now like a wounded tiger and more dangerous after bin Laden's death.
“We should either crush them with full force or enter into talks with them to achieve elusive peace,” said Omar, a resident of North Waziristan, which the US considers the international headquarters of terrorists.
Peshawar police officer Muhammad Naseer Khan said he was sure more attacks would follow, but urged government forces to adopt foolproof security measures to thwart terrorist attempts. “Had these recruits been released in groups of 15, there would be no attacks or in case of attacks, the losses would not have been too great,” Khan said.
“The army, police and general public will face more devastating attacks as the TTP unleash a barrage of terrorist attacks in desperation,” said psychologist Anwar Khan. “After Osama's assassination, the Taliban will make every attempt to show to the world that Osama bin Laden's death has not dealt them any serious blow.”
“What the government needs is to beef up security installations. But the most significant step to take is to conduct full-scale military operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) from where the militants carried out the acts of terror,” he said.
Attacks by the Taliban on the army and the police are not new. Since 2005, some 4,000 soldiers and police and 30,000 civilians have perished in bombings and suicide attacks.
Just last February10, a suicide attacker in school uniform targeted a military parade in Mardan city, killing 15 soldiers.
In May 2008, a suicide bomber blew himself up near a bakery at a military facility, killing 11 army men and civilians, and injuring 18 others, also in Mardan.
Hussain, whose only son was killed by the Taliban last year, said the Taliban needs to be destroyed. “Osama's death is good news for the entire world but the fruits of his death will be reaped by people when the Taliban are eliminated and peace established,” he told IPS.
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