Tajikstan works to prevent terrorism
Attacks on Pakistani natural gas pipelines hurt consumers, economy
Kyrgyzstan develops aviation transport services
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to promote cellular sector growth
Shrine blast carried out by teen bombers
Pakistan faces issue of children used by militants
By Amna Nasir Jamal
LAHORE – Assuming a defiant posture, one would-be suicide bomber told police his name was “Fidai,” a term used by militants to mean “one who is willing to sacrifice his life.”
“He is convinced that becoming a suicide bomber is a ticket to heaven and if he conducted the attack he could get to Paradise,” Malik Tassaduq Awan, senior superintendent of police in Dera Ghazi Khan (DG Khan), told Central Asia Online. “He said, ‘As soon as I blow myself up, I will be in heaven and will get eternal peace.’ ”
Umar, aka Fidai, is 18, one of three suspects arrested in connection with the twin suicide blasts at Sakhi Sarwar Shrine in DG Khan April 3. The attacks, for which the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility, killed 50 worshippers and wounded more than 100.
A second suspect was 16-year-old Ismail. Police provided no information about the third detainee.
The shrine’s operators had gotten warning of a possible attack two years ago because it honours Sufi Islam, a peaceful branch of the religion that extremists reject.
Umar and Ismail are thought to be from North Waziristan, where they were students at Rizwan Public School, in class 9 and 6, respectively, Ahmed Mubarak, regional police officer DG Khan, said.
“Ismail detonated his vest at the gate of the shrine,” said Khalid Mahmood, deputy superintendent of police, DG Khan, who is involved in the interrogation of the youth. The blast did not kill Ismail.
Umar did not detonate his suicide vest, which could have injured or killed as many as 600 people, Khalid said. Instead, he threw a grenade, which exploded close to him, blowing off his hand. Later, Ejaz Khan of the Border Military Police shot at Umar and arrested him. A bomb squad defused his suicide vest.
Police also found a school card close to a severed head, identifying another bomber as Abdullah, son of Noorullah, of Mirali in North Waziristan.
What compels a teen to become a bomber?
By capturing two teen suspects alive and interrogating them, police have been able to shed some light on what compels them to become suicide attackers.
Umar “was told that it is a religious duty of every Muslim to get training to fight the enemies of Islam. He also alleged that army and police are accomplices of the enemies of Islam who are bent upon eliminating Islam and Muslims,” Awan said.
It is a difficult mentality to reverse.
“He was saying that if ever he gets a chance, he will again strike as a suicide bomber,” Awan said. “When we captured him, he was shouting to set him free since he wants to be a martyr and it’s a moral duty to send all policemen and army personnel to hell. It portrays the level of indoctrination he had received.”
Police have not thoroughly interrogated him because he is undergoing treatment at Nishtar Hospital in Multan. However, they have pieced together some of the logistics behind the bombing.
The attackers trained in North Waziristan for seven months. They arrived in DG Khan by bus and took a rickshaw to the Al-Madina Hotel, Fareedi Bazaar, March 29. They stayed there under false identities. The police have received conflicting reports on how and when the bombers received their suicide vests.
Taliban training of teens
The Taliban have long been known to recruit teens as suicide bombers because they are impressionable and less likely to be detected.
“Young suicide bombers are one of Taliban’s most chilling weapons,” Awan said. “Many of the children trained at camps (in the tribal areas) have carried out attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan.”
Hundreds of children undergo brainwashing at several TTP-run “suicide nurseries” in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, according to Pakistani intelligence sources.
“They keep teens in isolation,” said Abdul Basit, a Pak Institute for Peace Studies, Islamabad, scholar of suicide bombings. “If someone does not send their child for training, which they named ‘jihad,’ then they would be reprimanded. They are forced to leave the region, or their houses are bombed, or one of their relatives is killed.”
“Would-be suicide bombers attend a madrassa for 5 to 10 years, giving the cleric plenty of time to mould them,” he said. “The child sees no life outside the madrassa.”
Dr. Muhammad Hafeez, professor and director of the Institute of Social and Cultural Studies, University of the Punjab, Lahore, attributed the child trade to a combination of factors but ranked poverty high among them. Parents who can’t afford to send their children to good schools enrol them in such religious seminaries, he said.
“They are instilled with the discipline of a soldier in the schools, … and guided by clerics who persuade them they are on a glorious path to heaven,” he said.