Another female suicide bomber strikes in Pakistan. Taliban desperation?

Security experts believe the Taliban is facing internal strife, and the use of female suicide bombers could be a signal that Taliban efforts inside Pakistan are weakening.

Khuram Parvez/Reuters
Policemen use a magnet to collect pellets from the site of a suicide bomb attack in Peshawar August 11. A woman covered in a head-to-foot burqa carried out a suicide bombing in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, killing herself and another woman, police said. The bombing occurred near a police check post just yards away from where a remote-controlled bomb hit a police van, killing four policemen and a child, less than an hour earlier.

Two bombings, including one carried out by a female suicide bomber, claimed at least seven lives in the Pakistani city of Peshawar on Thursday. The incident is believed to be only the third time a woman has been used as a suicide bomber in Pakistan.

Analysts say the use of women in suicide attacks is a sign of militants’ desperation to carry out high-level attacks as they face pressure from the Pakistan Army as well as internal strife. It could also complicate security efforts as officials have been reluctant to search women.

“It’s generally men who are stopped at all the checkpoints, so now they’re using women and children,” says Raza Rumi, a Pakistani columnist.

The first of the attacks took place when a remote-controlled bomb exploded near a police vehicle, according to media reports.

Some hours later, a teenage female suicide bomber blew herself up near the first site.

"This was a female suicide bomber aged around 17 or 18 who threw a hand grenade on the police check post, about 20 meters away from the site of the first blast, and then blew herself up," police official Shafqat Malik told the AFP.

The Taliban have not yet claimed responsibility, but are widely believed to be behind the attack.

The incident, which was the first bombing in the Taliban-afflicted province since the Islamic holy month of Ramadan began, marks only the third instance of a female suicide bomber in Pakistan ever.

In December 2010, a woman blew herself up at a World Food Program distribution point in the Tribal Area of FATA, killing about 45 people. In late June, a married Uzbek-couple blew up a police station killing 10 policemen.

The Taliban have failed lately to carry out the high-profile attacks involving heavy loss of civilian life in Pakistan’s major cities that they were able to pull of 2008 and 2009. Before this instance, the militancy-afflicted Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province had remained largely peaceful for more than a month.

According to Rumi, the columnist, the Pakistani Taliban are on the defensive as they battle the Pakistan military on several fronts. Pakistan’s Army is currently engaged in major operations against Taliban militants in Kurram, Mohmand, and South Waziristan tribal agencies.

Security experts also believe the group is facing internal strife, and has been forced to shift its base of operations from North Waziristan to Orakzai after being forced out of their former stronghold by tribal leader Hafiz Gul Bahadur, an ally of the Pakistani military.

Ayesha Siddiqa, an expert on the Pakistani military, says conservative sensibilities in Pakistan make it difficult for a security officials to stop and search women.

“In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa it becomes difficult. You need to raise a big force of women police and train them [to carry out the checks]. Short and medium term there is no solution.”

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