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Female Pakistani Taliban suicide bomber hits hospital

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The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan claimed credit for today’s suicide attack that targeted a hospital in the northwestern district of Dera Ismail Khan that killed eight people. The Taliban has used female suicide bombers in the past. Years ago, a wanted commander known as Qari Zia Rahman established training camps to indoctrinate women and young girls to carry out the gruesome assaults.

A Pakistani policeman said a woman wearing a burka detonated an explosive belt packed with nails and ball bearings outside the entrance of a hospital emergency room, Dawn reported. Four policemen and three civilians were killed in the blast, and dozens more were wounded.

The suicide bomber was targeting police and family members who went to the emergency room to visit policemen who were killed or wounded during a gun battle with the Taliban. Two policemen were killed in the clash that took place prior to the suicide strike.

TTP spokesman Muhammad Khurasani claimed credit for the attack and said it was carried out to avenge two commanders who were executed by police one month ago, Reuters reported.

Offensives such as today’s suicide assault in Dera Ismail Khan used to be a staple in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Between 2007 and 2014, the TTP waged a deadly insurgency that resulted in the death of tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians and security personnel. The Pakistan military tolerated and even encouraged the TTP insurgency for a period, and only went on the offensive when the TTP overreached and took over territory close to the capital of Islamabad and began attacking major military installations.

While the military assaulted the TTP, it left other Taliban groups, such as the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group alone. These Taliban factions are allies of the Pakistan military and its Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, as they support the jihad in Afghanistan and India’s state of Jammu and Kashmir, and do not advocate attacking the Pakistani state. The Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group do provide integral support and safe haven for the TTP and al Qaeda, however. This has allowed the TTP to survive and regroup.

Afghan and Pakistani Taliban have used female suicide bombers in the past

While the use of female suicide bombers in the Afghan-Pakistan region is rare, it is not unheard of. Between 2010 and 2011, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban conducted six suicide attacks using women and young girls. In one of these assaults, two US soldiers were killed.

During that time, the Taliban opened camps along the Afghan-Pakistan border that were used to train female bombers, as described by two young girls who were trained to carry out suicide strikes but escaped to tell their stories.

A Taliban and al Qaeda commander known as Qari Zia Rahman established the training camps in both Pakistan and in Afghanistan. Rahman, who the US military has described as a “dual hatted” al Qaeda and Taliban leader, operates in Kunar and Nuristan provinces in Afghanistan and in the tribal agencies of Bajaur and Mohmand in Pakistan. He was targeted by the US and Afghan forces in multiple drone strikes and raids, but he survived each attempt on his life.

Rahman was closely allied with Faqir Mohammed, the Taliban’s leader in Bajaur before Mohammed was captured in Afghanistan in 2013. He also was close to slain al Qaeda emir Osama bin Laden. Rahman’s fighters are from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and various Arab nations.

Suicide attacks by female bombers in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Aug. 11, 2011Peshawar, Pakistan:

A female suicide bomber killed an elderly woman while attempting to attack a police outpost in Peshawar.

June 26, 2011Uruzgan, Afghanistan:

The Taliban gave an eight-year-old girl a bag of explosives and had her walk to a police outpost in the Cino Charo district. The explosives detonated before she reached the police, killing only the girl.

June 25, 2011Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan:

A husband and wife team, said to be Uzbeks, assaulted a police station in the town of Kolachi. The team entered the town’s police station under the guise of filing a complaint and took several policemen hostage. The pair detonated their vests as police laid siege to the station, killing seven policemen and a tea boy. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan claimed the attack, and said it was carried out to avenge the death of al Qaeda founder and former leader Osama bin Laden.

June 4, 2011Kunar, Afghanistan:

The Taliban claimed credit for a female suicide strike in the Marawara district that killed three interpreters. The Taliban released an official statement on their propaganda website, Voice of Jihad, and claimed that a “Mujahida sister” killed 12 US and Afghan troops.

Dec. 24, 2010Bajaur, Pakistan:

A female suicide bomber killed 42 Pakistani civilians in an attack at a World Food Program ration distribution point in Khar, Bajaur.

June 21, 2010Kunar, Afghanistan:

A female suicide bomber struck for the first time in Afghanistan in Kunar province. In the offensive, two US soldiers were killed and two Afghan children were wounded. Qari Zia Rahman claimed credit for the suicide operation.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.

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