POSTED: 2:07 a.m. HST, May 25, 2011
PESHAWAR, Pakistan >> A suicide bomber in an explosives-laden pickup truck leveled a police building in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, killing six people and wounding 30 in the latest attack to rattle the country since the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility and said the blast was to avenge the death of bin Laden. Already this month, the al-Qaida-allied group has claimed three other revenge attacks, including a bloody 18-hour siege of a naval base.
The target Wednesday in Peshawar appeared to be the police’s criminal investigation department, but the building was in an army compound and several military facilities also are nearby, regional police chief Liaquat Ali Khan said. Counter-terrorism police were stationed at the center, another officer said.
The Pakistani Taliban is violently opposed to the United States, but also is angry at the Pakistani state for cooperating with Washington since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The group has carried out scores of attacks on Pakistan’s security establishment over the years.
Police officer Mohammad Zahid was in the basement when the bomb went off.
“I felt like the sky fell on me,” Zahid said in hospital, where he was being treated for multiple injuries. “The explosion jammed the door of my room in the basement, but there was a small hole in the wall so I crawled through that.”
Six people died, five of them police officers, and at least 30 people were wounded, police said.
Military forces sealed off much of the cantonment as machines were brought in to sift through the piles of rubble left at the site of what was once a multistory building.
Government leaders condemned the bombing.
“Our determination is much higher than before, and we will fight till the defeat of these terrorists,” said Bashir Bilour, a senior official with the provincial government. He said at least 660 pounds (300 kilograms) of explosives were used.
Bin Laden was killed on May 2 by a team of U.S. Navy SEALs in the army town of Abbottabad in a house roughly a mile away from Pakistan’s premier military academy.
Since the raid, U.S.-Pakistan relations have sunk to new lows. Pakistani leaders insist they had no idea the al-Qaida leader had been living, apparently for five years, in the large, three-story house in Abbottabad. And they are furious that the U.S. raided the house without telling them in advance.
The Taliban have taken responsibility for a twin suicide bombing at a paramilitary police training facility that killed around 90 people and a car bomb that slightly wounded two Americans in northwest Pakistan.
But the siege this week of the naval base in the southern port city of Karachi was one of the most audacious assaults in years and further rattled a military establishment already humiliated by the unilateral U.S. raid.
The militants destroyed two U.S.-supplied surveillance aircraft while killing 10 people on the base. Four militants died in the fighting, officials said.
The commander of the naval base was relieved of his duties and replaced, according to a statement from the navy on Wednesday. A committee also was formed to investigate how the militants had infiltrated the base.
Associated Press writers Zarar Khan in Islamabad and Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan, contributed to this report.