As Taliban militants step up attacks on Afghan and Pakistani security forces in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death, they are turning to new groups for suicide bombings: children and married couples. Earlier today, AFP reports, the Pakistani Taliban claimed that a burka-clad Uzbek couple had carried out an attack on a police station in northwest Pakistan--if true, only the second female suicide bombing in the country. A Taliban spokesman promised to continue using husband-and-wife teams to strike security forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan "until the doors of oppression are shut." The news came a day after Afghan authorities confirmed that Taliban insurgents, in another unprecedented incident, had tricked an eight-year-old girl in central Afghanistan into carrying a bomb that the insurgents detonated remotely when she reached a police vehicle.
The new tactics could undermine support for the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan (in the photo above, Pakistanis offer funeral prayers for a police officer killed by the Uzbek couple on Saturday). In Pakistan's Daily Times today, for example, an editorial reflecting on the husband-and-wife attack argues that "the Taliban are not getting innovative; they are just following in the footsteps of their fellow radicals." After the death of the eight-year-old Afghan girl, meanwhile, Afghanistan's interior ministry declared that the "enemies of peace and stability" had committed "another unforgivable and shameful crime."
There are also questions about how these new strategies will affect Taliban unity. On Monday, Pakistani Taliban commander Fazal Saeed split with Pakistan's umbrella Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) faction in protest against the Taliban's attacks on mosques, markets, and other civilian targets, in what the AP calls a "a rare criticism of the militants by one of their own." Saeed, who is forming his own Tehrik-e-Taliban Islami militant group to battle NATO troops in Afghanistan, told AFP that "Islam does not allow killings of innocent civilians in suicide attacks" and compared TTP's tactics in Pakistan to "what U.S. troops are doing in Afghanistan." In another mysterious incident today, unidentified gunmen killed a senior Taliban commander named Shakirullah Shakir while he was riding on a motorcycle near the Afghan border. Shakir, a spokesman for the Fidayeen-e-Islam wing of the Pakistani Taliban, once claimed that he had trained more than 1,000 suicide bombers at camps in North Waziristan and promised more attacks after a teenage suicide bomber blew himself up near a religious procession of Shiite Muslims in the Pakistani city of Lahore.