Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan are bribing starving children as young as eight years old to plant deadly roadside booby traps, be decoys in ambushes and even act as suicide bombers, the Daily Mail reported on Saturday.
Despite the Islamic fundamentalists’ claim they have no children in their ranks, extremists have been actively recruiting orphaned and homeless young boys and training them to use guns, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and suicide vests.
In return, they ply the desperate youngsters with sweets and chocolate, an investigation for the British Channel 4’s Dispatches program suggests.
Afghan orphan Neaz was just eight when he was promised a handful of coins by Taliban fighters to convert him to their cause. The boy had been tending his father’s flock of sheep when coalition forces bombed his village.
"The Taliban were hiding in our house when a helicopter came and bombed us," he told Channel 4. "My father was hit in his heart and his head, he was torn apart. My mother was hit in the chest and died. I have no one."
According to the report, in the immediate aftermath of the raid, Neaz was kidnapped by Taliban leaders and taken to a nearby town and shown how to use guns and make IEDs. They plied him with sweets and he was initially delighted when they said they planned to bring him an extra-special gift – a suicide vest packed with bullets and grenades.
"They made me try it on. The grenades went all around my body and then they offered me the coins (50 Afghanis – about $1,)" he said.
"They told me to blow myself up at a checkpoint. I asked what I’d do with the money if I had to blow myself up. But they kept encouraging me, telling me that if I did it I would go to heaven."
He finally escaped and walked nine miles to turn himself in at a police station. Now aged 10, Neaz lives in an orphanage in Lashkar Gah.
Other children are less fortunate. According to the Daily Mail, there are 224 children in prisons in Helmand and Ghazni, arrested by government forces for planning or carrying out attacks.