- Hagel renews Qatar defense pact despite differences over Iran, Syria
- Fire departments fear Obamacare will gut volunteer ranks
- Rep. Alan Grayson loses $18M in stock scheme
- Christmas secularists get 6-foot beer-can Festivus pole at Florida Statehouse
- George Zimmerman’s girlfriend flips on assault: Let ‘my boyfriend’ go
- Lululemon Athletica chairman quits after firestorm over his fat-thighs comment
- CBS’ beleaguered Lara Logan gets a cheerleader — Dan Rather
- Jesus tops list as most significant figure in history; Mohammed at 4th
- See a drone? ‘Shoot it down,’ says Colorado ordinance
- Spanish journalists kidnapped by al Qaeda group in Syria
EXCLUSIVE: Taliban buying children for suicide bombers
Pakistan’s top Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, is buying children as young as 7 to serve as suicide bombers in the growing spate of attacks against Pakistani, Afghan and U.S. targets, U.S. Defense Department and Pakistani officials say.
A Pakistani official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because of the sensitive nature of the topic, said the going price for child bombers was $7,000 to $14,000 - huge sums in Pakistan, where per-capita income is about $2,600 a year.
“[Mehsud] has turned suicide bombing into a production output, not unlike [the way] Toyota outputs cars,” a U.S. Defense Department official told reporters recently. He spoke on the condition that he not be named because of ongoing intelligence efforts to catch Mehsud, a prime target for a U.S. and Pakistani anti-Taliban campaign.
An apparent U.S. effort to kill Mehsud last week failed. On Sunday, the Pakistani government offered a reward of about $615,300 for information leading to the capture of Mehsud, dead or alive. The U.S. State Department has offered a bounty of $5 million for Mehsud, who is thought to be hiding in the tribal areas near the Afghan border.
Suicide bombings have become frequent in Pakistan in the past year, including high-profile attacks on hotels frequented by Westerners, as well as on Pakistani police and military installations. There has also been a spate of such attacks directed at U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.
The U.S. official said the price depends on how quickly the bomber is needed and how close the child is expected to get to the target.
“[Mehsud] produces these suicide bombers, which are sold or bartered, which can be used by [Afghan Taliban leader Mullah] Omar’s Taliban or … other groups,” the U.S. official said.
In some cases, he said, the children are kidnapped and then sold to Mehsud.
Using child suicide bombers “is the grim reality of the Taliban Frankenstein that now threatens to overwhelm the Pakistani state,” said Bruce Riedel, a Brookings Institution scholar who chaired a review of Pakistan-Afghanistan strategy for President Obama.
Efforts to reach a spokesman for Mehsud were not successful.
The use of children in war is not unusual in Afghanistan or the tribal regions of Pakistan. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, many pre-adolescent boys became mujahedeen or freedom fighters.
There is a different cultural perspective here about the age at which a boy becomes a man, said Sher, a former Afghan freedom fighter who asked to be identified only by his first name to protect himself against Taliban retribution.
“Fighting is not the issue,” Sher, who took up arms against the Russians at age 13, told The Washington Times by phone.
“What is unusual is making these young fighters into suicide bombers,” he said. “That was not common in Afghanistan, not even in the past. These children are brainwashed to believe things that are not even true. It is a crime against God.”
In other conflicts, such as that between Israel and the Palestinians, suicide bombers are generally older, at least in their late teens or early 20s.
By Tom Fitton
New photos confirm the attack's coordination and its cover-up
- American bourbon now better than Scottish whiskey: U.K.-born expert
- FITTON: A closer look at the Benghazi lie
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- Nevada rescuers frenzied to find 4 kids, 2 adults lost in snow
- Troops forced to rely on welfare, holiday charity
- Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu backs out of Nelson Mandela funeral
- Obama eulogizes Mandela, calls him 'the last great liberator'
- Obama shakes hands with Cuba's Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela's funeral
- EDITORIAL: Colorado ruling takes the cake
- Obama lied about Syrian chemical attack, 'cherry-picked' intelligence: report
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Politics, economics, and business from a real world perspective.
The pursuit of all that is joyous in travelling the globe is the essence of The Good Life, whether its Hawaii or the South of France.
Beaten down before, tyranny rises again, at home and abroad. America stands at the brink, as the world begins to burn. Awake to the dangers.
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up by Lisa King Dolloff and friends.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow