QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani security forces shot dead five suspected al Qaeda-linked militants who had tried to carry out a suicide bombing in southwestern city of Quetta on Tuesday, police and paramilitary officials said.
The would-be bombers included three women and were believed to be foreigners, police said. They were killed in an gunfight near a paramilitary checkpost in Quetta, a city is believed to be a base for the Afghan Taliban leadership.
“From the appearance of the attackers, it looks they were either Uzbek or Chechens,” a senior security official told reporters at the site of incident. “They had hand grenades and bombs strapped to their bodies.”
If the attack had been carried out, it would have been the second targeting Pakistan’s military since al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a U.S. raid earlier this month.
Pakistan’s Taliban, which is close to al Qaeda, has vowed to avenge bin Laden’s death and last week, its suicide bombers killed 80 people at a paramilitary academy in the northwestern town of Charsadda.
Suicide bombings carried out by women are rare in Pakistan, a strategic U.S. ally facing al Qaeda-backed Taliban insurgents.
A police official said at least one of the attackers blew himself up before being shot. No security forces were killed, the officials said.
Pakistan’s southwestern tribal area along the Afghan border has been described as a global hub for militants, including Arabs and Chechens.
Pakistan’s commitment to fighting militancy has come under intense scrutiny after it was discovered that bin Laden appeared to have spent years living in there before he was killed by U.S. special forces in a garrison town not far from the capital Islamabad on May 2.
Reporting by Gul Yousafzai; Writing by Zeeshan Haider; editing by Michael Georgy and Miral Fahmy