The fresh-faced cadets of Pakistan’s Frontier Constabulary were meant to be taking the fight to the Taliban. Instead the fight came to them, in a horrific bloodbath.
A pair of Taliban suicide bombers on Friday turned a joyous homecoming for the newly trained paramilitary police cadets into a massacre of at least 80 people, ripping apart human flesh shortly after morning prayers.
Scores of cadets were getting into buses, looking forward to seeing their families for the first time after weeks of gruelling courses designed to turn them into frontline fighters in Pakistan’s war against insurgency.
Little did they know that they were already on the frontline.
As a group stood by, discussing after breakfast whether it really was a good idea to be travelling en masse from their academy in the northwest town of Shabqadar, the motorcycle-borne bombers struck, seconds part.
“Everybody was lying on the ground and crying. I saw people lying in blood and dying. There were dead bodies and body parts. I can’t put it into words,” said Gul Momin, 21, his leg in plaster.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the country’s bloodiest militant attack this year as vengeance for the May 2 killing of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden by US forces north of Islamabad.
Visiting the bomb site and visibly distressed, Bashir Ahmed Bilour, senior minister for Khyber Paktunkhwa province, lashed out at the attackers.
“Why are these beasts targeting innocent people? These young boys were going back to see their parents. They were Muslims. They were Pashtuns,” he said.
“Can I ask, why are they (Taliban) targeting their own countrymen? This is not Islam.”