Taliban try to recruit children as suicide bombers | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 11.02.2012
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Taliban try to recruit children as suicide bombers

The recruitment of young suicide bombers is one of the Taliban's most terrible tactics - yet it still remains a problem in Afghanistan. Some young children though are able to be rescued before they lose their lives.

Nasibullah was just nine years old when it happened. He was playing on the banks of a river in his home town of Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, when he was approached by members of the Taliban, and kidnapped. They imprisoned him and started to brain wash him, all in the hope of turning him into a suicide bomber, to die in their war. "They tied a bomb around me and told me that it was a toy. They said: as soon as you see soldiers, you can connect the cable."

The Taliban coax in the children with promises of toys or money. Nasibullah was one of the lucky ones. Before he could carry out his bombing, he was discovered by the police and brought to another part of Afghanistan. He had to wait 20 days before authorities could bring him back to his father.  

A new chance

Afghanistan Hamid Karzai lässt inhaftierte Kinder frei

President Karzai and a young boy, who was on his way to becoming a suicide bomber

Nasibullah was allowed to return to his family. Other Afghan kids, that were also on the path to becoming suicide bombers, can land in jail after being found by the police. Often these youngsters weren't kidnapped but instead supposedly "voluntarily" chose to die.

In the summer of 2011, Afghan President Mohammad Karzai approved the release of a number of youths who had been arrested for attempted suicide bombing.  They were given a school education and a new chance at life. "The Taliban make their own sons into doctors and engineers. They want to turn our kids in to criminals, so that our land can not move forward," Karzai said.

Children of jihad

Even before the Taliban started using children and teenagers for suicide bomb attacks, youths were being used as soldiers in Afghanistan. "Even in the war against the Soviet Union, youths were being called into the army and forced to take part in the jihad," General Atiqullah Amarkhel, former Commander in the Afghan Army told DW.

Even today this propaganda has a strong effect on the kids, says Amarkhel. He believes that some would go to war on their own volition, even if their parents didn't know. 

The young recruits are not just efficient fighters for the Taliban. They also play a role in the psychological warfare that is taking place, says the ex-General. "The enemy uses suicide attacks to play with the minds of their opponent. People know the effect these attacks have on foreign soldiers. This war is not fought on battle fronts, it is a guerilla conflict. The theory is: the opponents of the Taliban are weakened in every way until they capitulate." 

Poverty plays into Taliban's hands

Schulkinder in Afghanistan

School life in Afghanistan: still not a reality for every child.

Poverty is one of the reasons why recruitment of young suicide bombers works. Many kids are flattered by the promises of money for their work. Azizuddin Hemat, head of psychological care at the Kabul public health department, says that the children involved are often not really aware of the potential deadly consequences of their actions.

Another factor is the children's' upbringing. "Kids that decide to die as suicide bombers, often grow up in strongly religious families. Since infancy they have been taught the value of praying and religious ceremony. It is easier to recruit these kids."

These days, Nasibullah's father is simply pleased to have his son back: "I drove around everywhere with my car to find him. I even had a lucky charm made, I spent all my money. I searched for him for 72 days." He now hopes that the safety levels in Kandahar will improve, so that he doesn't have to ever go through the same torment again.

Author: Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi / al
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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