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Teen suicide bomber helps Pakistani Taliban reaffirm potency

A teen suicide bomber killed at least 31 people in northwest Pakistan Thursday, bringing to an end a lull in major strikes by the Taliban.

By Issam AhmedCorrespondent / February 10, 2011

Pakistan army soldiers patrol in the vicinity of the army training camp in Mardan near Peshawar, Pakistan Thursday, Feb. 10. A teen suicide bomber in a school uniform attacked soldiers during morning exercises at a Pakistani army training camp killing many troops and injuring dozens of others, police and the military said.

Mohammad Sajjad/AP Photo

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Lahore, Pakistan

A teenage suicide bomber wearing a school uniform blew himself up at a military base in northwestern Pakistan Thursday, killing at least 31 military personnel and wounding more.

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The attack, which took place in the city of Mardan, was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban and highlights the group's increasing tendency to recruit women and young teens from areas targeted by US drone strikes, say regional security specialists.

It also ends a lull in major strikes by the Taliban and reaffirms its potency after a period of rebuilding, they say.

“Militants have started 2011 on a high note," says Abdul Basit, an expert on militancy at the Pakistani Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), who points out that militants have also been ramping up small-scale attacks in the northwestern city of Peshawar. "They have been able to strike Peshawar on a near-daily basis – this shows their growing influence not just within tribal areas but also the urban districts of Pakistan.”

The attack comes after a 22 percent decrease in terrorist attacks across Pakistan in 2010 compared with 2009, according to figures compiled by Mr. Basit's PIPS organization in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.

Recruiting women and children

Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the Taliban told reporters the attacks were to avenge the drone attacks and military operations in the tribal areas. "We will continue such attacks on those people who are providing security to the Americans," he said.

It was the deadliest suicide bombing in Pakistan since a burqa-clad woman killed some 45 people at a United Nations food distribution point in late December.

Recruiting woman and children help the Taliban to evade the ubiquitous security checkpoints that now dot Pakistan’s towns and cities, though they could lead to greater scrutiny of these groups.

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