Despite the Taliban’s denial that it uses children as human explosives, its spring offensive began with a suicide bombing by a 12-year-old boy. The attack is just one more sign that the militant group and its terrorist allies are increasing their efforts to recruit, train and utilize child suicide bombers.
The young terrorist’s suicide blast, which killed four Afghan civilians and wounded twelve in the Afghan province of Paktika, was roundly condemned by Afghan President Hamid Karzai as “inhumane and against all Islamic principles.”
Yet, it was one of two such suicide attacks carried out by child bombers in eastern Afghanistan over the past several weeks, attacks that killed over 15 people. Soon after those assaults, Afghan authorities showed off five captured would-be suicide bombers –all under the age of 13 — trained by Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan.
As one Afghan intelligence official said, “They have been told that infidels are in Afghanistan … and they have been encouraged to go for Jihad.” In a disturbing twist, one of the captured bombers thought he would survive the attack when he was told by his instructors that “the (infidels) will be killed and you will live.”
For its part, the Taliban denied using children as human explosives, saying they do not use “beardless” or underage boys in their militant operations. According to a statement released by the terror group, “Those who haven’t grown a beard due to being underage are prohibited to spend time with the mujahedeen in residential and military centers.”
Unfortunately for the Taliban, that statement contradicts its past claims to have trained anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand juveniles as suicide bombers. In fact, the Afghan government places the figure of trained child suicide terrorists closer to 5,000.
While the number of suicide bombers can range from as little as age seven to over forty, most suicide bombers are under the age of 18. Sadly, the recruitment and training of these children is not only extensive and well organized, but growing.
To that end, suicide training factories have sprouted up all over the Afghan-Pakistan border, with most located in the Pakistani province of Waziristan. There, it’s been estimated that the Fedayeen-e-Islam have trained over 1,000 suicide bombers at three facilities. More disturbingly, many suicide training centers have been designated into junior and senior camps.
The Pakistani army found one such junior camp, equipped with computers, video equipment and literature, where children as young as age 10, according to one army officer, “knew about the planting of explosives, making and wearing and detonating suicide jackets.”
The increased demand for child bombers comes as the Taliban have focused its efforts on attacking an expanding list of civilian targets, sites which include schools, mosques, markets, government offices and other public places.
Tragically, the results have been all too effective. In the month of February alone, Afghanistan saw suicide bombings in the capital of Kabul that killed 10 civilians; an attack in Khost that killed nine; an attack in Kandahar that killed 18; an attack in Jalalabad that killed 40; and an attack in Kunduz that killed 28.
To some, the emphasis on suicide bombings is seen as a sign of the terror group’s desperation. According to one Afghan army commander, the Taliban and its terrorist allies have “no ability to conduct large scale operations anywhere, so he has switched tactics.” As district leader Hamdullah Nazak, a reported survivor of 11 attempts on his life said, “Of course. It’s the only way for the Taliban now.”
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