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Is the Taliban using girls in suicide bombings?

An 8-year-old Afghan girl was apparently tricked into a suicide bombing yesterday, while a Pakistani girl who narrowly escaped a similar ploy was returned home to her family last night.

By Staff writer / June 27, 2011

Pakistani police officers examine the damaged vehicles, a day after Taliban militants attacked at a police station, Sunday, June 26, 2011 in Kolachi near Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan.

Kashif Naveed/AP

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New Delhi

A 9-year-old girl who was drugged, abducted, and strapped into a suicide vest by militants last week in Pakistan returned home safely to her family last night. But the scene was darker yesterday in Afghanistan where insurgents apparently tricked an 8-year-old girl into carrying a bomb and blew her up near a police checkpost.

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Spokesmen for the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban deny involvement in either attack. While teenage boys have been used by militias since the anti-Soviet jihad, some regional experts doubt that Taliban leaders would stoop to using young girls. The problem there? Those top leaders are not fully in control of forces on the ground.

“It wouldn’t be the policy of the high command – they wouldn’t want to use young girls,” says Saad Mohammad, director of the Forum for Area Studies in Peshawar, Pakistan. “A lot of people take advantage of the name of the Taliban, and they have their own scores to settle with some policemen there [or other feuds], so they take the cover of the Taliban.”

Such lack of ground control highlights a pitfall in the Afghan peace process. Even if the United States manages to cut a deal with the Taliban leadership, it’s not certain low-level commanders would fall in line.

Sunday’s attack took place in Uruzgan Province of central Afghanistan. The interior ministry claims that “the enemies of peace and prosperity” gave an 8-year-old girl a bag of explosives, telling her to take it to the police. As she approached a police vehicle, the militants detonated the explosives by remote control. The girl died. But no police were killed or injured.

Requirements for a suicide attacker

Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says the Taliban were not involved in the incident. He went on to say that Islamic scholars followed by the Taliban have laid down six conditions for a suicide attacker.

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