- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 27, 2004

The latest suicide bomber, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy wearing an explosive belt was caught last Wednesday by Israeli paratroopers at a roadblock south of Nablus. A week before, the Israelis found an explosive charge on a cart pushed by a 10-year-old Palestinian child at the same roadblock. Incidents like these raise a question, which has long interested me: How do the Palestinians recruit these young suicide bombers, how do they train them?

Well, there’s an answer — a rare glimpse into how it’s done. The London-based Arabic daily, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat has just published an article about a member of the Islamic terrorist organization Ansar Al-Islam, who planned to blow himself up in the Iraqi Interior Ministry building in Al-Suleimaniya, but was arrested in time by Kurdish authorities.

The U.S. government, officially and rather belatedly, listed Ansar Al-Islam as a terrorist organization March 23. The Kurdish security authorities accuse Ansar Al-Islam of attacking American forces and their allies in Iraq and of responsibility for the suicide bombings at the headquarters of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in early February, which killed 109 people.

The article in the Arab daily, translated by MEMRI, is the story of the 18-year old youth, Kaywan Qader, who grew up in Al-Suleimaniya, in northern Iraq.

He was one of 10 brothers and sisters in a moderately religious family. In the mosque where he prayed daily, he met someone named Sawara Ahmad Ali, who recruited him into Ansar Al-Islam.

After his arrest, Qader said Sawara Ali told him it was his duty to carry out Jihad operations against the KDP and that prayer alone was not sufficient. To become a good Muslim, said Sawara Ali, Qader needed to join Jihad. He persuaded the young Qader that if he became a jihadist he would go to paradise where 72 virgins would await him with open arms.

Qader easily succumbed to the pleadings of Sawara Ali and despite the opposition of Qader’s father, the youth joined one of the villages, known in Arabic as “TNT camps,” with a population of some 400 youths to prepare for his future role as a suicide bomber. Actually, Ansar Al-Islam does not use TNT but prefers what are known as C4 explosives which are more powerful and lethal than TNT.

In the camp, the inductees, between the ages of 15 and 25, are placed in groups of between three and eight persons. Lectures are the order of the day for one month, during which they also receive military training.

Qader received a monthly wage of $22 during his training period. Sawara Ali, his recruiter, sent his name to the group’s command in Biyara, Ansar Al-Islam’s stronghold in the mountainous region bordering Iran.

What is unique about these revelations is they may answer the question: How can parents allow their children to become suicide bombers?

Well, in this case, Qader’s family tried to dissuade him from joining the suicide training camp. According to the Arab daily report, Qader’s father strongly opposed his son’s jihadist ambitions. But Qader told his father Allah’s wish superseded the family’s wish. At one point, his father persuaded his son, on promise of finding him a job, to leave the jihad camp. But Qader still continued his jihad training.

I cannot believe Arab parents are any different from non-Arab parents. They, too, love their children and want them to live out their lives as Qader’s father did. For me, the explanation for young Arab suicide bombers is the dogmatic, imperious exploitation of religious faith by older men who speak in the name of Allah, and the credulity of the very young.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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