CHARSADDA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Suicide bombers killed 80 people at a Pakistani paramilitary academy on Friday in revenge for the death of Osama bin Laden in a U.S. raid and militants in Pakistan vowed to carry out more attacks.
A member of the Pakistani parliament said Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, Pakistan’s spy chief, said he was “ready to resign” over the bin Laden affair that has embarrassed the nation. Pakistan’s opposition leader accused the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, spy agency of negligence and incompetence.
Followers of bin Laden have vowed revenge for the al Qaeda chief’s death and the Pakistani Taliban said Friday’s attack by two suicide bombers 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 bombers struck as 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.
Pakistan’s military and government have drawn criticism at home, partly for not finding bin Laden but more for failing to detect or stop the U.S. raid on May 2 that killed him.
A senior Pakistani general also cancelled a planned visit to the United States. Pakistan depends heavily on U.S. aid.
In addition, U.S. authorities in Pakistan interviewed three of bin Laden’s widows, detained by Pakistan in the compound after the U.S. raid, but gathered little new information, U.S. officials said in Washington.
Pakistan said it would repatriate the three widows and their children. One is from Yemen and the others from Saudi Arabia.
U.S. special forces killed bin Laden, the man behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, at a compound near Pakistan’s top military academy in the northern town of Abbottabad. Pakistan welcomed his death as a major step against militancy but called the secret U.S. raid a violation of its sovereignty.
Shahid Ali, 28, was on his way to his shop when the bombs went off in Charsadda. 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.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner condemned the attack, offered condolences to the families of the victims, and stressed the U.S. alliance with Pakistan.
“Terrorists have shown time and again that they are the true enemy ... of the people and the government of Pakistan,” Toner said. “We respect the nation’s sacrifices in the fight against terrorism and will continue to stand with Pakistan in our joint struggle to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and allied terrorist organizations.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States would be “very vigilant” about revenge attacks.
Hours after the bombing, a U.S. drone aircraft fired missiles at a vehicle in North Waziristan 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 the attacks, saying they violate its sovereignty and feed public anger.
Military and intelligence chiefs gave parliament a closed-door briefing in which ISI chief Pasha told legislators he was ready to take responsibility for any criminal failing, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said.
“If any of our responsibility is determined and any gap identified, that our negligence was criminal negligence, and there was an intentional failure, then we are ready to face any consequences,” Awan told Express TV, citing Pasha.
Another member of parliament said Pasha told the assembly he did not want to “hang around” if parliament deems him responsible. “I am ready to resign,” Riaz Fatyana quoted the ISI chief as saying.
The spy chief also told parliament bin Laden had been isolated, Awan said. “We had already killed all his allies and so we had killed him even before he was dead. He was living like a dead man,” Awan quoted Pasha as saying.
The chairman of Pakistan’s joint chiefs of staff committee, General Khalid Shameem Wynne, cancelled a five-day visit to the United States that had been set to begin on May 22.
“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 defence committee said it was reviewing cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism.
U.S. officials are sifting through what they describe as a treasure trove of intelligence material seized in the raid on bin Laden’s compound.
Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed on Friday that a stash of video pornography was found in the hideout there but said they did not know if bin Laden himself had acquired or viewed the material.
The White House also said President Barack Obama would lay out his vision for Middle East policy next Thursday, using bin Laden’s death as a chance to recast the U.S. response to political upheaval in the Arab world.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush, who spent years searching in vain for bin Laden, described for the first time the call he received from Obama informing him that U.S. forces had killed the al Qaeda leader.
Bush said he was eating souffles at a Dallas restaurant when he got word Obama was trying to reach him.
“I excused myself and went home to take the call,” Bush said. “Obama simply said, ‘Osama bin Laden is dead.’” After Obama described the U.S. raid and the decision he made to go ahead with the mission, Bush said he told Obama, “Good call.”
Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider, Haji Mujtaba, Rebecca Conway, Augustine Anthony and Izaz Mohmand in Pakistan, Arshad Mohammed, Steve Holland, Mark Hosenball and Tabassum Zakaria in Washington; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Peter Cooney