AFGHANISTAN--The mission was as simple as touching two wires together, the little boy was promised. The resulting blast would obliterate the American infidels – but God would spare him from the flame and shrapnel. Abdul Samat would be unharmed and free to run back to the men who had fitted his bomb vest.
Blindfolded and rigged with his explosive payload, the boy, who was about 13, was driven to his target in the Afghan city of Kandahar, after being plucked from the streets of Quetta in neighbouring Pakistan. Minutes before he was due to execute the attack, however, Abdul realised the lies of his recruiters seeking to turn him into a human bomb.
"When I opened my eyes, I saw it was a very black thing they wanted me to do," he later recalled.
"I began to cry and shout. People came out of their houses and asked what was wrong. I showed them I had something in my vest. Then they were scared too and called the police who took the bombs off me."
Afghan security officials say that Abdul's story is not unusual. In the past year, insurgents have used a wave of child suicide bombers, some as young as 10, on the ruthless assumption that small boys can pass through checkpoints and security cordons more easily than men.
A senior Afghan intelligence official estimated that more than 100 had been intercepted in the past 12 months, including 20 from the Kandahar area in the south. The insurgents seek to exploit the innocence of their recruits and turn it into a weapon.
The largely illiterate boys are fed a diet of anti-Western and anti-Afghan government propaganda until they are prepared to kill, he said. But the boys are also assured that they will miraculously survive the devastation they cause.
"The worst part is that these children don't think that they are killing themselves," said the official. "They are often given an amulet containing Koranic verses. Mullahs tell them, 'When this explodes you will survive and God will help you survive the fire. Only the infidels will be killed, you will be saved and your parents will go to paradise'." (Read more.)