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Friday, February 11, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Teen bomber kills 35 soldiers in NW Pakistan

By Malik Ayub Sumbal,

ISLAMABAD — A teen suicide bomber disguised in school uniform killed 35 soldiers and wounded 50 in an army camp in the Northwest Pakistan city of Mardan on Feb. 10.


The bomber walked into a military base in Mardan, 120 kilometers Northwest of Islamabad, and detonated explosives as soldiers were lining up for the morning parade. Witnesses said he was wearing the uniform of a school situated near the army camp.

The attack targeted the headquarters of a Punjab regiment that had launched a successful operation against the Taliban in 2009.

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The location signaled that despite years of army operations against their hideouts along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, Taliban and Al Qaida-linked fighters retain the ability to strike back.

Senior police official Abdullah Khan said 35 soldiers died and around 50 were wounded, some in critical condition. Khan said an examination of the body parts at the scene indicated the bomber was a teenage boy, a common finding in suicide bombings in Pakistan.

Despite his apparent disguise, the bomber’s ability to get his explosives into the facility undetected signaled a failure on the part of the military. Such army areas are usually heavily guarded, though an attack on the same training facility in 2006 also resulted in heavy casualties.

No particular militant group immediately claimed responsibility though the Pakistani Taliban has staged such attacks in the past.

The army has staged multiple offensives in recent years in Pakistan’s Northwest aimed at taking out the Pakistani Taliban. Its efforts against the group, which is separate from but linked to the Afghan Taliban, appear to have been largely successful.

The U.S. has encouraged Pakistan to eliminate the Pakistani Taliban in the belief that the long-term stability of the nuclear-armed Muslim nation is critical to global security.

Washington also wants Islamabad to take out militants who focus on fighting the U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan but who have bases on Pakistani soil, in particular in the North Waziristan tribal region. But Pakistan has yet to mount an offensive in that area.

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