KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan authorities paraded four young Afghan boys on Saturday who they said had been recruited as suicide bombers from homes in neighboring Pakistan and detained as they came back across the border on a mission to attack foreign troops.
The four boys, all under 13, giggled and smiled shyly at one another as they were led on to a stage before television cameras to tell how they were coerced by insurgent leaders into becoming unwitting suicide attackers.
“We were told to go and carry out a suicide attack in Logar province. I was told to press the detonating button and they said the (infidels) will be killed and you will live,” said 13-year-old Fazil Rahman, who was dressed in bright green Afghan shalwar kameez clothing.
Militants in Iraq often used child bombers, some of them disabled, to bypass security checks as troops and police in the country ramped up inspections to counter increasing attacks.
But the use of children and women bombers in Afghanistan has been relatively rare in the decade since U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government.
A 12-year-old child bomber detonated a vest packed with explosives in a bazaar in the Barmal district of Paktika province last Sunday at the start of the insurgents’ spring offensive, killing four civilians and wounding 12.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the bombing and said recruiting children who did not know the difference between right and wrong was “inhumane and against all Islamic principles.”
A spokesman for Afghan intelligence, Lutfullah Mashal, said the four boys were detained at the main Torkham border crossing between Kabul and Peshawar in Pakistan, but did not say when they were found. They lived with their families in Pakistan.
“They have been told that infidels are in Afghanistan, there is no Islamic religion in Afghanistan, and they have been encouraged to go for Jihad,” Mashal said.
“They were ... told ‘Americans will be killed and you will be alive, you can come back and we will give you money and you can rejoin your family,” he said.
It was not clear what would happen to the children. They will be held by Afghan authorities until a decision is made.
The Afghan Taliban last week declared the start of a spring offensive against Afghan security forces and Western troops, who are expected to leave the country by the end of 2014.
Reporting by Samar Zwak; Writing by Rob Taylor; Editing by Nick Macfie