TALIBAN USES YOUNGSTERS FOR SUICIDE MISSIONS
By RAHIM FAIEZ, AP
July 16, 2007 -- KABUL, Afghanistan - Calling child suicide bombers a "fearful and terrifying truth," President Hamid Karzai yesterday freed a 14-year-old Pakistani boy arrested in eastern Afghanistan the night before he originally was to kill a provincial governor.
Rafiqullah, who goes by one name, told The Associated Press that while attending a madrassa, or religious school, in Pakistan he and two other boys were separated from the rest of the students, trained to drive a car, and made to watch videos of suicide bombers carrying out attacks.
The teenager said he walked across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border into the province of Khost, where a man named Abdul Aziz gave him a vest full of explosives.
Rafiqullah said he told Aziz he was afraid of carrying out a suicide bombing, and Aziz pointed a gun at him and threatened to kill him if he did not.
Rafiqullah's intended target was the provincial governor.
"Today we are faced with a fearful and terrifying truth, and that truth is the sending of a Muslim child to carry out a suicide attack," Karzai told reporters at the presidential palace.
"[His parents] sent him to study at a madrassa," he said. "The enemy of Islam deceived him and prepared him to carry out a suicide attack to kill himself and other people around him."
Afghanistan's intelligence service first showed off Rafiqullah to reporters last week at a news conference also attended by the boy's father, Matiullah.
The two shed tears and hugged in front of journalists.
The father last week said he asked his son's teachers where his boy was, but could not get a clear answer.
"I didn't know my son was going to carry out a suicide attack in Afghanistan," Matiullah said.
Karzai, putting his hand on the boy's shoulder yesterday, blamed those who tried to get him to carry out the attack: "He is not guilty . . . I forgive him, and I wish him the best of luck."
Last month, a 6-year-old boy in Ghazni province said Taliban militants forced him to put on a suicide vest and walk up to American soldiers - a potential attack foiled when the boy asked Afghan soldiers for help.
A gory Taliban video that surfaced in April showed militants instructing a boy of about 12 in Pakistan as he beheaded an alleged traitor with a knife.