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Militants use toy bombs to target children, opponents
Children, women are main victims of booby traps
By Zahir Shah
DARA ADAMKHEL – Militants are increasingly using toy bombs, booby traps and mines to target security forces in the Pakistani tribal areas, but children and women are the most frequent sufferers of these attacks, observers say.
A recent example involved a toy bomb in Dolatkhel village, Dara Adamkhel, July 24 that injured six children.
The children were playing with what they thought was a toy they had found outside home, Maroof Khan, a local tribesman who accompanied his six minor relatives to Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, told Central Asia Online. It exploded.
“The toy bomb was thrown near the house intentionally to lure in the children who might have taken the bomb home and could have caused more damage, but instead they went to the hujra (guesthouse) and got injured,” Maroof told Central Asia Online August 15.
The political administration has since suggested that the toy bomb was targeting Malik Dolatkhan, a cousin of banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Dara Adamkhel Tariq Group chief Tariq Afridi.
Targeting innocent children with such devices is the worst form of atrocity, religious scholars and ulema say.
“The children are innocent in the eyes of God, and using and targeting children in such acts of violence are not only an enmity to Islam, but are inhuman and gruesome ... non-permissible in any religion,” said Hafiz Muhammad Tayab Qureshi, a religious scholar and a prayer leader at Masjid Mohabat Khan.
“Killing an innocent human being is equivalent to the killing of humanity as evident in the Holy Koran, and killing of children and targeting them are the most condemnable act,” he said. “It’s shameful for those who claim to be Muslims and still resort to such acts of terrorism, not even sparing the minors.”
Pakistan ranks high in bomb deaths
Toy bombs add to the already severe threat that mines and improvised explosive devices pose to residents of tribal areas, observers say.
“Pakistan can be ranked second or third in the world as far death due to explosions caused by unattended ammunition, toy bombs or booby traps,” said Raza Shah Khan, executive director of the Sustainable Peace and Development Organisation (SPADO), a group that raises awareness about such dangers in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
In 2011, 636 casualties (223 deaths and 413 injuries) occurred from explosions of various devices in Pakistan, SPADO data show; so far in 2012, 95 people have died and 89 have been injured, statistics indicate.
“About 80% of the victims of such attacks or explosions are women and children, and even the siblings carried by the mothers had been falling prey,” Khan said.
FATA and KP are the worst-hit areas, with 441 of 2011’s 636 casualties, SPADO found.
The figures might represent only about half of all such injuries, since others go unreported, Khan warned.
What makes toy bombs more of a concern is that they are easy to use and effective in luring unsuspecting civilians, thereby adding to the element of terror, Khan said.
SPADO calls for educating the public
Lack of awareness swells casualty figures, said SPADO researcher Asmatullah Khan, adding there is a dire need to educate residents in high-risk areas about these toy bombs and booby traps. Women and children need special focus as they have been among the victims, he said.
SPADO is conducting special awareness sessions on the risk of landmines in mosques, schools, worship places, schools and even hujras in the volatile areas to create awareness about the various forms of bombs and explosive devices the militants are using, he said.
“You know, it works a lot,” he said of education efforts, citing a July 2010 study of an incident in Kohat. In that case, three children from Orakzai Agency died while playing with a hand grenade they found in a pond, he said, but the fourth boy – who had undergone mine education while he was at a refugee camp – survived because he fled when he saw the boys were playing with a grenade, he explained.