Special report: Market of teen suicide bombers in Afghanistan
The militants of the Haqqani network. Al-Jazeera
Afghanistan has become one of the main links in the structure of the transnational market of suicide bombers which the so-called Haqqani network is actively developing. Fergana News presents the special report by its correspondent who talked to witnesses of the training of suicide bombers.
In the early 2000s, Mavlavi Aslam, the resident of the northern province of Kunduz, was one of the pupils in a mosque in his village. In 2004, he left to Pakistan to receive religious education and found himself in the Haqqani madrasa.
"I was appointed as a tutor of adolescents brought from other madrasas of the Haqqani network. Haqqani madrasas are located near Islamabad, as well as in Lahore and Karachi. At first, I felt that I was doing something good for the sake of people and the benefit of my Muslim brothers in Afghanistan by teaching and educating teenagers. But after two years of my stay there, I realised that the Haqqani family is engaged in the recruitment and training of suicide bombers out of these teenagers and young boys who came to this madrasas. They were approached skillfully, with knowledge of psychology, and most of them very easily succumbed to any commands and what they were taught," Aslam says.
According to him, the madrasa administration organised camps for teenagers brought to Haqqani madrasas after a specific time. During these meetings, trainers identified those children who can be easily influenced. They were separated and taken to specially protected camps which were far from the madrasa. The rest were forbidden to appear there. Meanwhile, Aslam noted that the training of suicide bombers in the Haqqani network had increased dramatically since 2010.
"I witnessed myself; there were moments when lonely drivers were arriving in cars and taking a young man with them. After that, I found out from my colleagues in our madrasa unostentatiously that the one who was taken away said goodbye to us and goes to heaven. And for the fact that his family lives very poorly, they need to collect $10,000 donations. In fact, as it turned out later, unknown to me people were selling a suicide bomber for $40,000-80,000, and of the acquired sum they transferred $10,000 of alleged donations to the family of the deceased teenager. The family did not know where their child was. After I witnessed such facts, I decided to leave this madrasa, and I returned home to Kunduz in 2010," tells the former tutor in the madrasa of the Haqqani network.
Officers of the Afghan security service and the National Police claim that the law enforcement agencies have detained the Haqqani network members along with a group of 20 children aged four up to 14. Reportedly, these teenagers were supposed to be smuggled from Afghanistan to Pakistan. After the detention and investigation, the law enforcers found out that the children had been kidnapped to be prepared as suicide bombers.
One of the workers of the Afghan security service in Kunduz, on condition of anonymity, said that the law enforcers repeatedly succeeded to catch the brokers along with their protege - trained suicide bombers - during the special operations.
"For example, in the summer of 2015, we conducted an operation in the Dashti Archi district [in Kunduz province - not by Fergana News] and surrounded one of the houses in the area. When entered the house, we found the broker sitting with the young suicide bomber whom he brought from Pakistan to one of the local customers. When we arrested them and conducted an investigation, it turned out that the agent paid $40,000 for the suicide bomber in Pakistani Hakkani madrasa and trafficked him to Kunduz with the intention of selling to the customer for $60,000," the source says.
The officer said that he has witnessed several such stories and has reason to assert that the leaders of terrorist organisations, such as the Haqqani network, have long been trading suicide bombers and delivering them as a commodity to customers at already fixed tariffs. In Pakistan, according to the source, the trading range of prices for a suicide bomber is $20,000-40,000, and in Afghanistan - $40,000-80,000. The source said that Afghan security services captured many agents or messengers, and as a result of investigations they are serving terms behind bars. Some of them, found guilty of human trafficking for profit and participation in terrorism, convicted to capital punishment -execution by a firing squad.
Mullah Izatullah, one of the Taliban commanders, told Fergana News, provided his location is not disclosed, that the suicide bombings in Afghanistan are now exclusively in the hands of the Haqqani network. "Special people work with a suicide bomber, control his actions before the explosion. Earlier, I personally saw these suicide bombers - they were so brainwashed that they were ready to blow themselves at the right moment. They used to have installed bridging contacts of charges at the elbow bend. And now it is done with the help of remote controls. I think the reason for this was the case when the suicide bomber did not have time to bend his arms in the elbows for bridging, or he was seized by a spasm, or he was captured preventing to close the charge," says the Taliban commander.
According to Mullah Izatullah, he and other Taliban militants witnessed the trafficking of suicide bombers from Pakistan to Afghanistan for specific purposes. "One day a suicide bomber was taken away by a representative of one of the local field commanders in Baghlan [province]. As we found out later, the suicide bomber was commissioned for $ 70,000. The most interesting thing, the customer of that suicide bomber could not use him on time - the moment of 'use' of the suicide bomber is determined in different ways, but usually, it needs to be sent 'to a job' for a period from three up to 10-12 days. This limit has expired, the buyer wanted to send the suicide bomber back to the 'operator' and return his money. But, according to my information, no matter how hard the customer tried to get his money back, he could not succeed."
A suicide bomber usually does not know in advance a specific goal he must destroy. In most cases, trainers say to him: "You will destroy an object in which your brothers, innocent Muslims, are killed daily," or that "the object you destroy damages your religion and faith to ruin your home and your relatives". Besides, mentors-recruiters show him how foreign soldiers in Afghanistan and other Muslim countries kill women and children. And the day before the suicide bomber is sent to the target, he is either added a dose of drug substances to his food or given under the guise of medicine. After that, he only knows the mark he will be shown and nothing more.
Haqqani network training camp. Al-Jazeera
You can contract to kill anybody
Witnesses of the "live bomb" trade business argue that leaders of big mobs, drug traffickers and warlords have become interested in suicide bombers as a commodity useful against their enemies since 2005. Then a price of the suicide bomber depended on a target. For example, if a mark was one of the armed commanders, the minister, a member of the president's family, the governor, then the price of the suicide bomber increased up to $80,000-100,000. If the target was less significant, then the cost decreased to $50,000-70,000.
In this regard, one of the members of the Afghan Security Council, on condition of anonymity, told Fergana News that about half of the suicide attacks have since been carried out against specific individuals, and not foreign or Afghan soldiers in general. Even state officials were not squeamish about the orders, both under Hamid Karzai and under Ashraf Ghani.
"For example, an elder leader having respect among the people could be the target. If you paid attention, there had been many suicide attacks, after which neither side, that is, the Taliban or other groups, took the blame - most often such attacks were carried out at the request of certain persons, and this [trend], unfortunately, continues. Most of these explosions were conducted with the help of remote controls, which, according to our data, were in the hands of the customers' people. Now, this practice is expanding, since the price of a suicide bomber is no longer $70,000 or more, as it was not so long ago. To date, you can order a suicide bomber for $10,000-15,000," says a member of the Afghan Security Council.
Sources say that the trade system of "suicide bombers" has been fine-tuned. In fact, the buyer gets ready-made remote control for the terrorist and can send him to any target within a certain time. However, repeatedly there were cases when a suicide bomber because of his youth or for other reasons could not self-detonate at the target and let himself be rendered harmless. A case with the 14-year-old teenager Rafikullah, whom the then President Hamid Karzai had forgiven in the summer of 2007 after a failed attempt on him, was widely publicised.
As Rafikulla himself told then, the man who had brought him from Pakistan to Khost province [of Afghanistan] prepared him for the act of self-suicide in Khost, put a suicide vest on him and said: "You are honoured to destroy Hamid Karzai. He is a friend of infidels and unbelievers. He kills innocent people every day, and you will become a hero among your peers, and you will go to heaven." After that, the curator had sent Rafikulla to Kabul, but three days later law enforcement agencies detained him. Rafikullah returned to his parents who came from southern Waziristan. They believed that they lost their son, they had not known whereabouts of him for five months.
Sayed Rasul, the nephew of Haji Abdullah Ghani, one of the prominent elder leaders of the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, who died in the capital of the province of Balkh as a result of the suicide attack on 9 November 2017, said that until now neither the so-called "Islamic State" (the banned terrorist organisation), nor the Taliban took the responsibility for the murder of his uncle.
"We learned that the suicide bomber was a citizen of Pakistan - a young man of aged between 20 and 22, whose parents were paid $15,000. And we do not know when and who ordered the uncle. The only thing we know for sure is that he opposed the former governor of Balkh [Atta Muhammad Nur] and his supporters," says Sayed Rasul.
The history of Afghanistan as a participant in a suicide bomber market is relatively short. We can say that the first such act on the territory of the country was made in 2001 in the province of Takhar, in Khoja Bahauddin. Ahmad Shah Massoud, the head of the Northern Alliance, fell the victim of the terrorist attack launched by the two Arab militants. Afghan security forces believe that the military practice of suicide bombings came from Iraq through Pakistan, where radical fundamentalist groups adopted it. But because of the ongoing war, Afghanistan has become the major "consumer" of the suicide bombers market.
After the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud, suicide bombings in Afghanistan have become part of the war. They were conducted against members of the anti-terrorist coalition and field commanders. Residents of Afghanistan believed that the Taliban movement or the militant supporters of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are behind the suicide bombers.
In total, according to the law enforcement agencies, there have been 1,180 terrorist suicide attacks since 2001. Mostly men or adolescents carried out these attacks, but women were engaged in some cases too. "Live bombs" aged between 14 and 55. Among these suicide bombers were citizens of other countries: Palestine, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the former Soviet republics, mainly from Central Asia, and even European countries.
According to the valid intelligence data, the founder of suicide training in Pakistan was the field commander of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud. He bought and recruited teenagers aged between seven and 15 and prepared them as suicide bombers. Baitullah Mehsud had several training camps for terrorists, including in South Waziristan [province in Pakistan].
In general, the geography of the camps of the Pakistani Taliban preparing suicide bombers is wide enough: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Lahore, Karachi, Quetta. Field commander Qari Hussain Mehsud, the cousin of Baitullah Mehsud, assisted him in this business having close contact with the terrorist Haqqani network. After Baitullah Mehsud was killed by a drone bombing in 2009 in South Waziristan, Qari Hussain has continued the preparation of the suicide bombers until his death in 2010 as a result of the drone attack too.
Fergana News Agency