ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan’s military captured a would-be Islamic State female suicide bomber in the cultural capital of Lahore before she could carry out an attack on the Christian community during Easter celebrations, the army’s chief spokesman said on Monday.
The military identified the woman as Noreen Leghari, a medical student who grew up in the southern city of Hyderabad.
Part of a video confession by the woman was shown at a news briefing. In it, she says she was part of a planned attack on an unnamed church on Easter, and had traveled from Hyderabad to Lahore and was working with two other men.
“They had two (explosives-filled) jackets and four hand grenades, and the jackets were to be used for an attack on some church during Easter, and I was to be the suicide bomber,” she says.
“But before that, on the night of April 14, the security forces raided our hideout.”
The director general of the army’s public relations wing, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, showed the video as part of an update on a military operation against jihadist militants, launched after a series of attacks in February including the bombing of a Sufi shrine that was claimed by Islamic State.
“These kids are our kids. The youth bulge is our strength. When terrorists begin targeting our youth then you can estimate what kind of effect this will have on our society,” Ghafoor said.
Addressing rumors that Noreen had traveled to Syria to join Islamic State, Ghafoor said she “was recovered from Lahore, which means she never went to Syria”.
He added that 4,510 suspected militants have been arrested across the country in the latest army operation, which began in February.
One of the biggest successes announced so far was the surrender of Pakistani Taliban offshoot Jamaat ur Ahrar spokesman and leader Ehsanullah Ehsan. Jamaat ur Ahrar had carried out numerous big attacks since rising to prominence in 2015, including a bombing last Easter in Lahore that killed 70 people.
Editing by Hugh Lawson