News / Asia

Afghan Insurgents Recruit Child Suicide Bombers

Bethany Matta

Throughout the war in Afghanistan, insurgents have modified their tactics to adapt to the changing battlefield. In the past year, fighters have disguised themselves in burqas, hidden bombs in turbans, and increasingly turned to children to carry out attacks. We talk with a Pakistani boy who is one the war’s youngest recruited bombers.

When 13 year-old Ali Ahmad says he wants an education, he is not talking about the education he already has. "I was taught how to use guns and weapons and they also taught me how to do a suicide attack by pressing some button. They told me I would be paid a lot of money,” he explained.

Ali lost both of his parents when he was younger.  He and his younger brother were living in their uncle’s home in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.  Three months ago, he ran away. “I met three people near the border and asked them to give me a job. They asked to me to come with them, when I went they grabbed me and put something over my eyes so I could not see and tied my hands and legs," he recalled. "They took me to a training center where I trained for 20 days.”  

Ali’s recruiters then showed him the American base in Spin Boldak where they wanted him to attack using a suicide vest.  “They said when you do the suicide attack, you will go to heaven, even if you kill just one American in this attack. I said that I would be killed too, but they told me that my soul will be in peace,” he said.

Ali says he knew what would happen if he detonated the vest and was thinking of ways to escape.  But before he could carry out his mission, suspicious residents turned him in to security forces.

Over the past year Kandahar officials say insurgents have chosen to fight fewer face-to-face battles with troops. Instead, they say militants favor suicide attacks and are increasingly relying on children to carry them out.

“Using children is a new enemy tactic. Children are given 50 to 100 Afghanis to carry things. They don’t know what they’re carrying and the control to detonate the bomb is with someone else. When the kids reach the tanks or police vehicles, the enemies blow them up. Many kids are told they will survive," General Abdul Raziq is Kandahar’s acting police chief stated.  "Children cannot judge, and the older ones no longer want to do it.”

The Afghan Taliban, the main militant group in the province, insists it never uses children for insurgent activity. A Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, says the practice goes against Islam.

Ali remains in custody of the country’s main spy agency. Officials say they do not know what to do with him.  Ali has no family and shelters refuse to take him.  Ali says he worries about his younger brother and would rather be studying and playing - like other boys his age.

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