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Last Updated: Friday, 10 June, 2005, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
'Female bombers' held in Pakistan
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militant Gul Hasan
The women are the nieces of militant Gul Hasan
Two sisters suspected of training to be suicide bombers have been arrested from the northern Pakistani town of Swat, police say.

Police had been looking for them since June last year, officials said.

The women are related to a top militant who has been sentenced to death for his role in the bombing of two Shia mosques in Karachi last year.

These are the first ever arrests in Pakistan of women charged with being suicide bombers.

"It removes a major threat because such an unusual attack using female suicide bombers would have caused a lot of damage," a senior unnamed Pakistani security official is quoted as saying by AFP.

"It would have set an example for others to follow."

Radical influence

Their father Sher Mohammed Baloch told the BBC News website that his daughters had come under the influence of their uncle Gul Hasan, who is a senior member of an outlawed Sunni Muslim militant group, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

I could not even imagine they would be involved in something like this
Sher Mohammed Baloch, father

Last week a Karachi court sentenced Hasan to death after convicting him of carrying out a bomb attack on two Shia mosques in the city in May 2004.

Mr Baloch, who is a banker at one of Pakistan's top banks, said his daughters - Arifa, 18 and Habiba, 20, were devout Muslims.

"But I could not even imagine they would be involved in something like this," he said.

He said they left home in June last year saying they were going to visit their grandmother.

But instead, they went to the house of their mother's brother, Gul Hasan, who had been arrested by then.

"After Gul Hasan's arrest, his wife repeatedly called our house to request that Arifa should be sent to their home since they were alone."

Arifa and Habiba later disappeared with Gul Hasan's wife and daughters.

Suicide attacks

Police said they had made several raids over the past year looking for the women but the two had managed to evade arrest.

Pakistan's security forces say they had received information last year that some sectarian groups were planning to use the services of female suicide bombers.

There have been a number of suicide attacks targeting the minority Shia community in Pakistan.

Last month, five people were killed and about 20 others wounded in a suicide attack on the Shia mosque in central Karachi.

It came just days after a suicide bomber in the capital, Islamabad, killed 19 people and wounded nearly 100 in an attack on a shrine where hundreds of Shias had gathered.


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