PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – A Taliban suicide car bomb struck Pakistani police for a second day Thursday, killing 32 people as the militia vowed no reprieve in their quest to avenge the US killing of Osama bin Laden.
The attack defied the government's authorisation of "all means" to wipe out militants, which nonetheless stopped short of unveiling specific new measures despite a string of humiliating Taliban attacks on security forces.
As Pakistan grapples with the fallout from the US Special Forces raid that killed the Al-Qaeda chief on May 2, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States had "expectations" of its troubled ally.
In the latest attack, a pick-up vehicle crossed the district police office in the town of Hangu, official Latif Khan said, before exploding at a barrier outside the city police station, creating a 10-foot long and foot-deep crater.
"The buildings housing the police station, DPO office and nearby residence of the DPO were partially damaged but at least 15 shops, including a tea house and a restaurant, are completely razed," he said.
"The death toll has now risen to 32," Afridi told AFP.
District Police Officer (DPO) Abdul Rashid Khan confirmed the toll and said 56 people were wounded.
Regional police spokesman Fazal Naeem feared most of those killed were policemen and predicted the toll would rise because there are offices and residences of senior police and administration officials near the site.
"People were crying and shouting for help. I saw pools of blood and human limbs, including arms and hands," Haji Abdul Rehman, a witness, told AFP.
Hangu district has a history of violence between minority Shiite and majority Sunni sects, and is close to tribal areas bordering Afghanistan where Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants have carved out strongholds.
"We accept responsibility for this attack," a spokesman for Pakistan's main Taliban faction, Ehsanullah Ehsan, told AFP by telephone.
"Soon you will see bigger attacks. Revenge for Osama can't be satisfied just with small attacks," he said.
The umbrella group has claimed a string of attacks on the security forces to avenge the Al-Qaeda chief's killing in a US raid that apparently unfolded without the Pakistani military realising.
Six guerrillas stormed the naval air base in Karachi on Sunday, killing 10 personnel and destroying two US-made aircraft each costing $36 million in an attack that took hundreds of troops 17 hours to quell.
It was the worst raid on a military base since militants besieged the army headquarters in 2009, and heaped humiliation on commanders still reeling from the disclosure that Bin Laden had been living under their noses.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met with defence officials on Wednesday to review security measures.
On the same day, nine security personnel were killed and a police station flattened in a massive suicide truck bomb in Peshawar.
"Security, defence and law enforcement agencies will be authorised to use all means necessary to eliminate terrorists and militants," the government said in a statement.
The United States has long put pressure on Pakistan to lead a major air and ground offensive in North Waziristan, the most notorious Taliban and Al-Qaeda bastion used to launch attacks across the border in Afghanistan.
"We do have a set of expectations that we are looking for the Pakistani government to meet but I want to underscore it is not as though they have been on the sidelines," said Clinton, speaking to reporters in Paris.
"They have been actively engaged in their own bitter fight with these terrorists."
Militant attacks have killed more than 4,400 people in Pakistan since July 2007 as the Taliban and Islamic extremists linked to Al-Qaeda wage a bloody onslaught on Pakistan's US-allied leadership.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that Pakistan had agreed to allow a CIA forensic team to search bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad for items that may be hidden in walls or underground.
The US military said meanwhile it had begun pulling troops out of Pakistan at Islamabad's request.
A Pakistani security official told AFP that the cuts would leave fewer than 40 Americans in the country out of "130 trainers and technical support".