"They were dressed in black, all black," says Inam Mansoor, 33, an ambulance driver who entered a military compound in the Pakistani city of Lahore to recover people wounded in a new wave of militant attacks that killed 37 people on Thursday. "They were carrying guns and backpacks. They had commando-style scarves wrapped around their heads." But if such attacks have lately become an almost daily occurrence as Pakistan's army prepares a new offensive against the Taliban in Waziristan, what was remarkable in Lahore was that three of the attackers apparently were women. Police commandos who spoke to TIME at the scene made the claim, which was later confirmed by Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
The extremist organizations behind the violence are hardly champions of women's equality, but there have been reports in recent months of groups of young women — some of them survivors of 2007's showdown between the army and militant supporters at Islamabad's Red Mosque — traveling to Dera Ghazi Khan in southern Punjab to cement ties with jihadist groups there. The involvement of women fighters may be peculiar to Punjab-based militant groups. The Taliban forces in the northwest don't tolerate women walking out their homes unaccompanied by male relatives or being educated, much less trained as fighters. But the Red Mosque siege in Islamabad saw women publicly assert their support for the militants.
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