Woman suicide bombers fresh challenge for Pak security forces

In the first attack of its kind, the burqa-clad woman bomber lobbed grenades and detonated an explosive vest after being stopped at a checkpoint near a World Food Programme centre distributing aid to displaced people in Bajaur tribal region yesterday.

The bombing killed 46 people and injured over 80.

The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack, with spokesman Azam Tariq telling the media that the group has a large number of women suicide bombers who would be used in attacks.

Officials said an examination of remains confirmed the bomber was a woman.
Several witnesses said they had heard the woman scream before the explosion and one claimed her last words were: "Ya Allah khair."

Security experts contended that yesterday's attack represented a new challenge for security forces in the lawless tribal belt as it is not possible for troops to search women due to the tribal culture and sensitivities.

"The attack does pose serious problems for security forces, who will have to find ingenious ways to avert such bombings. They will also have to improve intelligence and gadgetry," Lt Gen (retired) Talat Masood, one of Pakistan's leading security analysts, told PTI.

Brig (retired) Mahmood Shah, a defence analyst specialising in the tribal belt, told the media: "If females are used in suicide attacks then it can be more dangerous."

"The problems in Pakistan's tribal belt had been compounded by the failure of Afghan security forces to stop the cross-border movement of terrorists," Masood said.

"The terrorists are getting support from Afghanistan and they keep crossing back and forth," he said.

Over 250 suicide attacks have been carried out in Pakistan since 2006 but yesterday's assault was the first one by a woman bomber.

Experts said the change of tactics could turn into a dangerous trend as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and other groups have warned in illegal FM broadcasts that they have trained squads of female bombers.

Taliban leaders Maulana Faqir Mohammad and Maulvi Mohammad Omar had claimed several times that they had women bombers, the Dawn newspaper quoted its sources as saying.

"Maulana Faqir was making announcements on FM radio, warning of involving females in suicide missions," a resident of Bajaur was quoted as saying.

However, security experts said such claims by the Taliban could be a bluff as the use of women for carrying out attacks goes against tribal traditions.

"It is contrary to tribal culture to put women in front," said Masood.

"Besides, it may not be easy for them to prepare such a large number of women bombers."

Masood told the media that the militants had been using teenagers for suicide attacks but he did not believe that they would engage women too.

Interacting with journalists in his hometown of Multan today, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani referred to the suicide attack by the woman in Bajaur and said it was the responsibility of the people to "identify such black sheep and bring them to justice."

He contended that militants were hitting "soft targets" as they had been forced to go on the run after the elimination of their strongholds.

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