Teen suicide bomber kills army recruits in Pakistan

Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, February 10, 2011; 8:30 AM

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - A teenage suicide bomber wearing a school uniform killed at least 27 soldiers at a military training center in northwest Pakistan on Thursday, police and intelligence officials said.

The bomber wore a uniform from a nearby school, and the outfit apparently allowed him to escape scrutiny upon entering the heavily guarded Punjab Regiment Center in Mardan, the officials said. The blast wounded at least 32 people, some seriously, one intelligence official said.

Many of the dead were army recruits. Some police sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 32 people were killed.

The attacker entered the training grounds as army recruits were doing morning warm-up exercises. Abdullah Khan, the top police officer in Mardan, said the attacker was 17.

The bombing was among the deadliest of many attacks that militants - whose hubs are in Pakistan's northwestern border region - have carried out against the army in recent years. An attack on the same training facility killed 35 people in 2006.

The bombing underscored the continued ability of Pakistani militants to organize high-profile attacks despite several army counter-insurgency offensives. While those operations and an escalation of CIA drone strikes have helped slow attacks, security analysts say they have failed to kill the leadership of militant groups such as the Pakistani Taliban.

Officials maintain that the 17-year-old bomber was the only person involved in the attack. But Umar Hassan Ihravi, a spokesman for the area's Pakistani Taliban chapter, claiming responsibility for the attack, told reporters in the area that the bombing was carried out by two militants. One, he said, served as a lookout and escaped after the attack. Ihravi did not say how old the bomber was.

Military officials say extremist organizations are increasingly recruiting children and teenagers to carry out bombings. The Pakistani army runs a deradicalization school for such youths in northwest Pakistan, not far from Mardan.

Brulliard reported from Islamabad.

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