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Female bombers attack Pakistani police

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A teenage girl wearing a suicide vest and a woman attacked Pakistani police guarding the scene of an earlier explosion in the northwest yesterday, twin strikes that killed five people and broke a relative lull in militant violence in the country.

Islamist extremists with links to al-Qaida have waged a bloody campaign against Pakistan's pro-Western rulers since 2007, targeting police, government and Western targets. Up to 35,000 people have been killed, raising fears abroad over the stability of the nuclear-armed nation.

In the first attack yesterday, a remote-controlled bomb exploded in Peshawar's Lahori Gate area as a police truck carrying constables about to start their shift drove by. Four police officers and a boy passing by were killed, while 22 people were wounded.

An hour later, a woman and a girl approached the police guarding the area. One of the females threw a grenade, then was able to partially detonate her suicide vest, said Shafqat Malik, a police officer with the bomb disposal unit.

The woman appeared to be 16 or 17 years old, he said. They both died in the blast.

"I thought the girl was pregnant as she was walking slowly with another woman. As I tried to push people away, suddenly a blast took place," said police officer Himayat Ullah, who was wounded in the attack.

Compared with other periods over the past four years, Pakistan has seen few large militant attacks over the past two months. Even with this lull, however, no one has suggested that the country's stretched and poorly trained security forces were making progress in the fight.

Most of the militants are based in the northwest close to Afghanistan, and Peshawar -- the largest town in the region -- has been frequently hit.

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