"Our mullah told us that when we carried out our suicide attacks, all the people around us would die, but we would stay alive"
Children used as cannon fodder-- and lied to -- to advance the cause of Islam. Where is the outrage? The Afghan government is trying to call attention to these cases to erode support for the Taliban, but there doesn't seem to be much of a response on either side of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. "Afghan intelligence: Taliban using child bombers," by Rahim Faiez for the Associated Press, May 15 (thanks to JCB):
KABUL, Afghanistan – The orders from their religious teacher were clear: Go to Afghanistan, strap on a suicide vest and kill foreign forces.
With that, 9-year-old Ghulam Farooq left his home in Pakistan with three other would-be boy bombers and headed into eastern Afghanistan.
They were told there would be two members of the Taliban waiting for them at the Torkham border crossing in Nangarhar province. Instead, members of the Afghan intelligence service who had been tipped to the boys' plans arrested them at the border.
"Our mullah told us that when we carried out our suicide attacks, all the people around us would die, but we would stay alive," Farooq said Saturday, sitting inside a juvenile detention facility in the Afghan capital.
He was one of five alleged suicide bombers — all boys in adolescence or even younger — whom the Afghan intelligence service paraded before reporters, photographers and cameramen at a news conference on May 7 in an effort to turn public opinion against the Taliban.
Farooq and the other boys are being held at a detention facility that resembles a vocational training center. There are no armed guards, and the facility has classrooms and playgrounds. During a visit to the center, Farooq was smiling and said he was going to school and that he and the other boys were being given the opportunity to learn carpet weaving, carpentry and other handicrafts. The facility has dozens of boys, most detained in criminal cases.
Afghan intelligence officials say the Taliban turns to young boys because they are easier to recruit than adults and tend to believe what recruiters tell them.
"The Taliban are recruiting children in their ranks and using them to carry out suicide attacks in Afghanistan," Latifullah Mashal, a spokesman for the Afghan intelligence service, told reporters. "These innocent children have been cheated and sent to Afghanistan."
The Taliban denies the accusation. In a statement issued a week ago, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said the insurgency's code of conduct prohibits young people from staying in military centers with fighters. Instead, he alleged that the youths were working for the Afghan police and public and private security companies.
"These children have joined the ranks of the enemy on the enemy's luring, taking advantage of their ignorance and lack of knowledge," he said.
In fact, the use of children to conduct suicide bombings is not a new tactic in the nearly decade-long war, Afghan officials say.
Confirmed cases are rare, and it's difficult to identify the bodies of bombers who blow themselves up. But Mashal said there had been a recent increase in the use of children.
In the past two months, he said, child suicide bombers executed two deadly attacks. The arrest of Farooq and three other boys allegedly heading toward suicide attacks came earlier this month, and Mashal said authorities are holding a fifth child who was about to carry out a bombing but then decided against it.
Farooq, clad in a dark green Afghan-style shirt, said he was persuaded to become a suicide bomber by a mullah in a mosque near Peshawar, Pakistan. His story could not be independently verified.
"He told us that there are infidels in Kabul and we must carry out suicide attacks against them," the boy said. "We were taught how to use a suicide vest in the Spin Mosque in Kher Abad near Peshawar where we live."
"I want to go home," he added. "I miss my family."
Ten-year-old Fazel Rahman, another member of the foursome, corroborated the story at the news conference, even using similar phrasing to Farooq's.
"The mullah in the mosque told us that the infidels were in Kabul and everyone should go for jihad" and that the bombers themselves would survive, Rahman said....