INTERNATIONAL

Woman bomber: new turn to militancy

Michael Howard and Ewen MacAskill

Michael Howard and

Ewen MacAskill

BAGHDAD/LONDON: The violence in Iraq took a new and dangerous turn on Wednesday when militants deployed a woman suicide bomber, killing at least six persons and wounding 30.

Although female suicide bombers have been used by the Tamil Tigers, Palestinians and Chechens, they are rare in Iraq and none has struck since the start of the militancy.

Iraqi police said a woman detonated an explosive device packed with metal balls among a group of men lining up to enlist in the Iraqi army at Tal Afar, in the north-west. Al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility in an Internet statement.

The regional police chief, General Ahmed Mohammed Khalaf, said this was a new tactic by the militants, who may have sent a woman because she could pass through checkpoints more easily. He said women and children would now be subjected to the same checks as men.

Women have seldom been searched at Tal Afar's checkpoints because of religious and social traditions in the country. The use of female bombers will make it more difficult for the police and soldiers manning checkpoints, particularly because there is a shortage of women officers to conduct body searches.

The U.K. Ministry of Defence in London said the attack would not necessarily mean a change in operations other than ``being more aware that females as well as men can be suicide bombers''.

A spokesman added that it was difficult to guard against suicide bombers, whether male or female.

- Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

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