Pakistan Frets Over Femme Fatales
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Female suicide bombers are relatively new in South Asia. The first known suicide bombing by a female anywhere in the world came in 1985 when a 16-year- old girl, Khyadali Sana, drove an explosive-laden truck into an Israeli Defense Force convoy and killed two soldiers.
Since then, women have driven bomb-laden vehicles, carried bomber bags, and strapped huge explosives and metal implements on their bodies in Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Chechnya, Israel, Turkey, Somalia and last but not the least, in Pakistan. Organizations worldwide which have publicized their use of female bombers include the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Syrian Socialist National Party (SSNP), the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Chechen rebels, Al Aqsa Martyrs, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and, most recently, Hamas.
While the SSNP has the distinction of deploying the first ever female suicide bomber, the LTTE became the world's foremost suicide bombers and proved the tactic to be so unnerving and effective that their methods and killing innovations were studied and copied, most notably in the Middle East. The LTTE has committed the most attacks, close to 200, using female bombers in 40 percent of cases. The largest number killed (170) was in Moscow in October 2002 when Chechen rebels, including a high proportion of women, held hostages in a theater, eventually leading to a futile rescue operation in which 129 captives and 41 rebels were killed. Palestinian suicide bombers have carried out the largest number of attacks in the recent years.
The youngest female bomber so far is 16-year old Khyadali Sana (who detonated herself in 1985), followed by 17-year old Laila Kaplan, (who had blew herself up in 1996). The oldest female suicide bomber was 37-year old Shagir Karima Mahmud in 1987. The first LTTE female suicide bomber was Dhanu, who killed Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991. The only pregnant female suicide bomber was from the Kurdistan Workers Party, killing six Turkish soldiers in June 1996. Her name remains unknown. The first Russian "Black Widow" was Hawa Barayev, who acted on behalf of the Chechen rebels in June 2000 and killed 27 Russian Special Forces soldiers by exploding her suicide vest.
The first female bomber in Israel, representing the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, was Wafa Idris, a paramedic who exploded herself in January 2002, killing an 81-year-old man and injuring over 100. The first female bomber who acted on behalf of the Palestinian Islamic Jehad was a 19-year-old student, Hiba Daraghmeh, who detonated herself in a shopping mall, killing three people. The first female Hamas bomber was 22-year-old Reem al-Reyashi, who blew herself up and killed four Israeli soldiers at an army checkpoint on January 14, 2004.
Reem was a mother who left behind a husband, a three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter. On June 11, 2011, a veiled female bomber detonated herself at the official residence of the country's Interior Minister Abdi Shakur Sheikh Hassan in Mogadishu, killing him on the spot. It is believed that the suicide attack could have been a retaliatory act by al-Shabaab insurgents in the wake of a sustained government push against them.
The first incident of suicide bombing carried out by a female in Afghanistan happened on June 21, 2010 in Kunar province, killing two American soldiers. The first suicide attack by a female bomber in Pakistan was carried out on December 24, 2010 at an aid distribution center of the United Nations World Food Program in Khar area of Bajaur Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, killing 47 people.
The second attack was carried out on June 25, 2011 when a husband and wife team, said to be Uzbeks, attacked a police station in the Dera Ismail Khan City of Khyber Pakhtoonkhawa, killing seven policemen and a tea boy. The TTP had claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out to avenge the May 2, 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden.
The use of female suicide bombers by Taliban extremists has prompted the Pakistan media to demand that all suspected veil-clad women should be searched without exception. Pakistani English newspaper Daily Times stated in its August 13 editorial: