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Teen suicide bombers often have roots in poverty
Families are unaware of child’s involvement with hardcore religious groups
By Javed Aziz Khan
PESHAWAR – Investigators of suicide bombings in Peshawar and elsewhere say most of the bombers come from poor families who were unaware their child was associated with hardcore religious groups.
The investigation wing of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Police has worked on a number of suicide bombings carried out during the past seven years.
Authorities found that in most cases families of suicide bombers or would-be bombers were not involved in the militancy or in the preparation of their children to commit suicide bombings.
Poverty, illiteracy, unemployment the main factors
“Investigation of the families of most of the suicide bombers disclosed that poverty, illiteracy and unemployment were the major factors behind making a teenager a suicide bomber,” Qazi Jamil ur Rahman, chief of the Elite Police Force in Peshawar, told Central Asia Online. He has interacted with more than 25 would-be suicide bombers, most of whom were teenagers.
The investigation disclosed that the prospect of glorification – tied to gaining extraordinary power or importance in society – is another major factor in luring teens into becoming suicide bombers.
“The police do not arrest the parents and other family members, but (we) investigate whether they have connection with militants or they were ignorant of what their children were doing,” Qazi said. “In almost all the cases, the parents were found not involved in what their sons were doing.”
The Dera Ismail Khan Police investigated the June 25 suicide attack on the Kulachi police station by a foreign couple.
“The female was just a 17-year-old Chechen national while the male was in his early 20s. They were brought to the spot by one Imran, a dismissed cop who had joined the militants,” Dera Ismail Khan Deputy Inspector General of Police Syed Imtiaz Shah told Central Asia Online.
Police could not reach the families of the suicide bombers, but they have shattered the network – which its leaders were operating from South Waziristan, he said.
“They were looking for some high-profile officer a day before they attacked the police station,” Shah said. “However, they failed and later stayed at the house of a local and then attacked the Kulachi police station.” Authorities later killed Imran.
Authorities have tracked down a number of bombers’ families, said a top investigator who requested anonymity. Various reasons block them from making those stories public, he said. However, he discussed some less sensitive ones.
“We successfully worked out the suicide bombing at the residence of former federal minister Amir Muqam in Hayatabad on November 9, 2007,” he said. “A former provincial minister, Pir Mohammad Khan, along with four others, was killed.”
Authorities identified that bomber as Sanaullah, the 20-year-old son of Abdul Mutallib of Khairabad in Nowshera District.
“We reached to the family after conducting a DNA test on Sanaullah and his father,” he said. “His father disclosed that his son was not in contact with family for months before his death.”
Police questioned but later released the father and other relatives.
Few urban children become bombers
Police identified a 14-year-old would-be suicide bomber whom they killed August 11 on Kohat Road in Peshawar as Latifullah, son of Sharifullah of the Sulemankhel neighbourhood in Badaber, Peshawar.
Latifullah was a rare child bomber who grew up in a large city, where socio-economic advantages make it harder for militant recruiters to find desperate, receptive children.
Latifullah and his facilitator, Rizwan, were killed the day a female suicide bomber struck at a police cordon in Lahori Gate.
“He was the close relative of a militant commander, Jangrez,” said Ijaz Ahmad, the senior superintendent of police operations in Peshawar. Jangrez apparently escaped after police gunfire injured him.
Umar, a 14-year-old would-be suicide bomber who attempted to blow himself up in a shrine in Dera Ghazi Khan in April, was another typical teenage bomber: the only radical in his entire family.
Umar, a boy from a poor background who lost his father early, tried to follow orders to blow himself up when rescuers arrived to help the survivors of an earlier blast. Although he pushed the button on his suicide vest, only part of his payload exploded. He was wounded and hospitalised.
Under interrogation, he said his trainers kept him away from home for months.
His mother categorically refused to give him permission to become a militant, he said. However, he went to a training camp because militant leader Qari Zafar (killed in 2010) and other men promised he would go straight to heaven if he carried out a suicide bombing against “enemies of Islam.”