A separatist group fighting the Pakistani government for years has deployed a new weapon in its arsenal, police said: child bombers.
Police in the southwestern Balochistan province say they have arrested a group of children as young as 8 that the United Baloch Army has been using to carry out attacks.
"All the children belong to extremely poor and down-trodden families," officer Zubair Mehmood told a crowded news conference Wednesday.
The militant group paid them $25 to $50 to drop off packages carrying bombs with timers, he said.
Police said the militant group used children because they seldom arouse suspicion.
Largest but poorest
For years, militants in Balochistan, a province rich in natural gas, have been fighting for self-rule.
They complain that the government has paid little attention to them and their economic needs.
While it's the largest province in Pakistan, it's the poorest in per capita income.
And for needy families, $25 to $50 (2,450 to 4,900 rupees) can go a long way.
'The children have confessed'
Authorities rounded up 11 children, as young as 8 and no older than 15, during a raid near the provincial capital, Quetta.
Eight adult members of the group fled during the raid.
"The children have confessed to more than a dozen bombings," Mehmood said.
One of the suspects confessed to a Jan. 10 blast that left 11 people dead and 67 wounded.
In the attack, a bomb was left near a busy market.
Some attacks have targeted other populated areas while others have targeted routes used by security forces.
In some cases, the bombs were placed inside trash containers on deserted roads -- possibly as a scare tactic, police say.
Not without precedent
In 2009, Pakistani and U.S. officials alleged that a top Taliban leader in Pakistan was buying and selling children for suicide bombings.
Pakistan's military released a video showing children going through exercises in training for their attacks.
Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud then sold the children to other Taliban officials for $6,000 to $12,000, Pakistani military officials said.
Mehsud was killed in an apparent U.S. drone strike in August 2009.
Since then, there have been other sporadic cases.
In 2011, a 9-year-old girl who says she was kidnapped by militants in Pakistan and told to be a suicide bomber.