Female suicide bomber kills 45 at food center in Pakistan

More than 100 wounded; woman dressed in traditional garb detonated an explosive vest; Taliban claims responsibility for attack.

Pakistan Suicide Bombing 311 (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Pakistan Suicide Bombing 311
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
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 opportunity."