KHAR, Pakistan— A female suicide bomber detonated her explosives-laden
vest killing at least 45 people at an aid distribution center in
northwestern Pakistan on Saturday, while army helicopter gunships and
artillery killed a similar number of Islamic militants in neighboring
tribal regions near the Afghan border, officials said.
The bombing appeared to be the first suicide attack staged by a woman in
Pakistan, and it underscored the resilience of militant groups in the
country's tribal belt despite ongoing military operations against them.
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The bomber struck in the main city in Bajur, a region near the Afghan border where the military has twice declared victory over Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents. It also came a day after some 150 militants killed 11 soldiers in a coordinated assault in the adjoining tribal region of Mohmand where the army also has carried out operations.
Top government official in Mohmand, Amjad Ali Khan, said helicopter
gunships backed by artillery pounded militants hideouts on Saturday,
killing 40 militants.
In Bajur, the bomber, dressed in a traditional women's burqa, was
queuing to enter the food aid distribution center in the town of Khar
when she was questioned by police at a check point, local government
official Tariq Khan said.
"Police asked for her identity, but she ran toward the center and lobbed
hand grenades at the police," Khan said. "She exploded herself when she
reached the crowd" of about 300.
Khan said six policemen were among the 45 killed and more than 102 people were wounded, at least 30 critically.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack through its spokesman, Azam Tariq.
Tariq suggested that the victims were targeted because most belonged to
the Salarzai tribe, which was among the first to set up a militia —
known as a lashkar — to fight the Taliban in 2008. Other tribes later
formed similar militias to resist the militants.
"All anti-Taliban forces — like lashkars, army and security forces — are
on our target," Tariq said. "We will strike them whenever we have an