Using Children as Suicide Attackers Increases Sense of Barbarity; Suicide attacks have risen rapidly in Afghanistan
(Bureau of International Information, the U.S. State Dept.) Washington – “When they first put the vest on my body I didn’t know what to think, but then I felt the bomb,” recalls 6-year-old Juma, who says he was tricked into wearing an explosive vest by a Taliban insurgent in Afghanistan.
The insurgent told him that if he pushed the detonator button it “would spray flowers.”
Once Juma realized what it was he notified Afghan security forces. The boy was selected to kill others with an explosive vest because it was believed he would easily slip past security forces that would be unlikely to suspect a child suicide bomber, terrorism experts say.
“The use of children, in particular, suggests that the [terrorist] groups responsible for their ‘recruitment’ are seeing a need to employ increasing extremes of barbarity,” says Tom Koenigs, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan.
In April, the Taliban used a 12-year-old boy to behead a Pakistani they believed was a spy. The father of the beheaded man said, “The Taliban are not mujahedeen (which fought successfully against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan). They are not fighting for the cause of Islam … They are the enemies of Islam. They are behaving like savages.”
According to terrorism experts, the use of children in suicide attacks, although still infrequent, is becoming more common as terrorist groups continue to experiment with ways to breach security measures and enhance the ruthless nature and lethality of the violence.
In Afghanistan, suicide attacks are a new phenomenon, says Christine Fair, a former political affairs officer with the U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) who coordinated the UNAMA study Suicide Attacks in Afghanistan (2001-2007).
Before September 9, 2001, there had not been a known suicide attack in Afghanistan. On that day two al-Qaida operatives, posing as news media, blew up themselves and assassinated Ahmad Shah Massoud, leader of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.
Taliban insurgents have conducted 103 suicide bombings in Afghanistan in the first eight months of this year, a 69 percent increase over the same period in 2006, according to the UNAMA report. In all of 2006, 123 attacks, which killed 305 people, were carried out, according to the report.
“The immediate victims of a suicide attack are those who are killed or wounded, their families, and their friends. However, the target of such attacks is also society as a whole,” Koenigs says.
“Suicide attacks traumatize entire communities, undermine popular faith in institutions of the state, provoke responses that limit freedoms, and intimidate populations into a sense that hopes of peace rest only with the providers of violence,” he said.
Fair said that the primary targets of terrorists in Afghanistan are police, security forces and coalition forces, not the civilian population. However, civilians make up the largest group of victims.
Fair also noted that Afghanistan lacks “the cult of martyrdom,” which is found in other areas that have experienced suicide terrorism. Afghans tend not to support suicide attackers, she said.
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