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Taliban use of woman bombers complicate Pakistan's anti-terror efforts

By Muhammad Tahir (Xinhua)

08:40, August 15, 2011

ISLAMABAD, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- Thursday's suicide attack by a Taliban teenage girl on a police checkpoint in Pakistan's northwest emerged as a major challenge in the conservative Pakistani society to deal with the threat of woman bombers. The young girl blew up a bomb stripped to her body near a police checkpoint shortly after a bomb attached to a pushcart killed seven policemen in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

This was the third attack by a female bomber in Pakistan in eight months and all were carried out in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, according to police.

In late December last year, a female Taliban suicide bomber killed 42 Pakistani civilians in an attack at a World Food Program ration distribution point in Pakistan's tribal agency of Bajaur, bordering Afghanistan. Over 70 others, mostly civilians, were injured in one of the major Taliban attacks. Security forces had launched major offensive against Taliban in Bajaur in 2008-2009 and cleared most of the area of the militants.

In late June this year a Taliban militant and his wife carried out a suicide bombing on a police station in Kulachi area near South Waziristan tribal region and killed 12 policemen and injured dozens others. The pair, armed with assault rifles and hand grenades, struck the compound and took a dozen policemen hostage for several hours. Ehsanullah Ehsan, Pakistani Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility and said Taliban will adopt new strategies to target the security forces and police.

Also in June, Pakistani police in northwest produced an eight- year-old girl at a news conference, who said she escaped from Islamist militants who tried to force her to become suicide bomber.

Three attacks by women in Pakistan's northwest in eight months, which killed nearly 60 people and injured around 150, have raised concerns about the Taliban's dangerous strategy to multiply challenges for the security forces. Pakistani officials say that 30,000 people including about 5,000 security personnel have been killed in terror attacks over the past seven years.

Shortly after Thursday's attack in Peshawar, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban in Mohmand tribal region, Omar Khalid, warned of more attacks if Pakistan remains in the U.S.-led international coalition. He also said Taliban have adopted a new strategy to use women for attacks.

Taliban, who is known for harsh policies towards women both in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, have been weakened as the result of major military operations in the tribal regions and Swat valley in the northwest and they are no more in a position to launch a big attack, according to counter-terrorism experts and officials.

They are now planning bomb and suicide attacks in big cities where they can easily mix with crowds and busy marketplaces. Some sources say that Taliban are using women of those families who have lost male militant members in military operations. Taliban is believed to have started a campaign to convince and prepare women for suicide and avenge attacks.

The police chief in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province Fayyaz Toru said last month that police have foiled several suicide attacks and defused many bombs in few months.

Taliban have also realized difficulties in carrying out successful attacks by male bombers and have now started using teenage girls.

Officials say that Pakistan does not have a required number of female police staff and employees to deal with the growing threat posed by Taliban woman bombers in public places. However, they said the security agencies will have to come up with a new strategy to deal with the new trend. The intelligence agencies will have to chalk out a plan on how to closely monitor the movement of suspected woman bombers to frustrate more attacks.

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