- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 17, 2009

PESHAWAR, Pakistan | Three suicide bombers, including a woman, attacked a police station in northwestern Pakistan, killing 13 people Friday while army air strikes killed a dozen suspected militants in a Taliban stronghold ahead of an expected ground offensive.

The bombing in Peshawar city was the latest in a surge of terrorist attacks over the past 12 days that has killed more than 150 people and underscored the power of Taliban militants, who have warned the army against launching any operation against their base close to the Afghan border.

In the capital, Islamabad, the army chief met with the prime minister and other political leaders for talks that included plans for an offensive in South Waziristan. After the meeting, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira vowed that the country’s leaders would “take all steps to eradicate terrorism and extremism from the country,” but he refused to discuss military plans.

With the first snows of winter less than two months away, the army has limited time to mount a major ground attack. The U.S. is racing to send in night-vision goggles and other equipment. The Pakistani military insists it’s sealing off supply and escape routes, forcing the militants to rely on goat paths.

On Friday, jets struck six militant positions in South Waziristan, killing 12 militants and wounding eight, a government and an intelligence official said on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.

Friday’s twin bombings targeted a heavily fortified police station in Peshawar, the main city in the northwest.

One attacker drove a car filled with explosives to the main gate of the police station, as a motorcycle carrying a man and a woman pulled up behind it, Peshawar police chief Liaquat Ali Khan said.

The woman jumped off and ran toward a nearby housing complex where army officers live, while the man smashed the motorcycle into the car, which exploded into a huge fireball, the police chief said. Police shot at the woman, who detonated explosives she was wearing.

The blast destroyed part of the police station and a mosque next to it.

The blast killed 13 people, including three police officers, two women and two children, said Gul Khan, a local police official. Another 15 people were wounded.

Insurgents have sent attackers wearing military uniforms to bypass security to carry out some of their recent raids. But the use of a female suicide bomber is extremely rare here and could signal a new tactic by the extremists.

In December 2007, what was thought to be the country’s first female bomber blew herself up near a Christian school while apparently aiming for a military post in Peshawar. There were no other casualties.

Friday’s attack came a day after militants launched coordinated attacks on three law-enforcement compounds in the country’s second-largest city of Lahore, killing 19 people as well as the nine attackers. Also Thursday, a car bomb in Peshawar killed a small child at a housing complex for government employees.

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