Taliban use children in combat roles

A 12-year-old boy, spotted as he put a homemade bomb under a road in the volatile Zhari District, grabbed a baby as a human shield to protect himself from attack from the NATO helicopter that detected him.

CA Online and wire services

2009-10-30

KABUL — A 12-year-old boy, spotted as he put a homemade bomb under a road in the volatile Zhari District, grabbed a baby as a human shield to protect himself from attack from the NATO helicopter that observed him in the act.

The incident occurred in an area where NATO forces operate under Canadian command, and appears to be part of a Taliban strategy to use youngsters as lookouts or human shields, or to carry out attacks. The insurgents are aware that NATO rules of engagement make troops extremely reluctant to open fire in such situations.

There have been 29 incidents in which children have helped commit attacks or otherwise aided the Taliban in Afghanistan's four southern provinces since March, according to a document provided by the Canadian military. Eight of the incidents took place in October.

"The Taliban are obviously manipulating children and using them as cannon fodder," said Maj. Robert Dunn of the Canadian forces in Afghanistan, who oversees operations in southern and western Kandahar. “There is one place west of Kandahar City where they shoot at us every day through a shield of children. They actually stack them up, with 8-year-olds at the front and 15-year-olds at the back."

[Montreal Gazette]

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