QUETTA: The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan said on Wednesday it had arrested a suspected female suicide bomber who was affiliated with the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) separatist group and was planning attacks in the provincial capital of Quetta.
Mahil Baloch, who hails from the remote town of Mand in Balochistan near the Iran border, was arrested from an area on the outskirts of Quetta, bringing into the spotlight the increasing number of women who are joining the separatist insurgency in the impoverished province.
Pakistan has been hunting women recruits in militant groups since a highly educated female suicide bomber last year killed three Chinese teachers in Karachi along with their local driver, targeting nationals from Pakistan's most important partner and seeking to undermine a relationship on which Islamabad's financial survival largely depends. The Baloch National Army (BLA) claimed the attack.
The BLF and BLA are among a number of separatist groups operating against the Pakistani state in Balochistan. The groups' stated aim is complete independence for Balochistan, Pakistan's largest province by territory but the smallest in terms of population given its arid mountainous terrain and poor development indicators. The southwestern province borders Iran and Afghanistan and has seen a decades-long insurgency against what separatists call the unfair exploitation of resources in the mineral rich-region.
“The Counter Terrorism Department Balochistan along with other law enforcement agencies were tracing the terrorist groups involved in using females and children for terrorist activities in Pakistan. After a solid lead, the LEAs arrested a suspected female suicide bomber with a suicide vest,” Babar Yousafzai, a spokesman for the Balochistan chief minister, told reporters at a press conference with Aitzaz Goraya, the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Counter Terrorism Department Balochistan.
Yousafzai said some relatives of Baloch who were working for the BLF had fled to Iran and were handling the group’s financial and other activities from there. Baloch had been living with her in-laws in Quetta since 2028 and her husband was a BLF commander.
The spokesperson said Baloch had confessed that she joined the BLF in 2022 after her husband was killed in a security operation. She had received an initial invitation on Facebook by a BLF group member. After that, a man called Sharbat Khan reached out to Baloch on the messaging app “Telegram,” and told her to receive a suicide jacket and keep it “until further directions.”
Baloch had told investigators that her family was being financially supported by the BLF separatist group.
DIG Goraya said Baloch was arrested “red-handed with an active suicide vest.” The hunt for her accomplices was ongoing.
“We have clues of the suspects in contact with Mahil Baloch through a Facebook ID and Telegram account and we are in contact with Meta [Facebook parent company] and Telegram authorities. We would proceed for further actions after getting their details,” Goraya told journalists.
Yousafzai urged militants to stop using innocent females and children for their “vicious objectives.”
“The terrorist group lured Mahil Baloch with the fake slogan of independence,” he said, “but when she was caught by security forces, the group disowned her.”