Inside a Taliban terrorism class
Stepped up attacks in Afghanistan may be a sign of well-trained graduates searching for soft targets.
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But officials say it's hard to know whether the current terrorist activities are linked to the Mechanical High School, or whether they go back to training of Islamic guerrillas by CIA and Pakistani advisers during the war against the Soviets in the 1980s. Afghan officials say no official record has been found to to determine which residents of this provincial capital were former students of the terrorist class.Skip to next paragraph
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Still, officials say they have a pretty clear picture of how much terrorist training the Taliban did of their own in their five brief years in power.
According to former students at the school and Afghan intelligence officials, the school trained several hundred students starting in January 1998, some 17 months after the Taliban took control of Kabul.
There were six teachers at the school, including one Libyan, two Egyptians, one Afghan, one Pakistani, and a Palestinian headmaster named Abu Maz. This may be the same Abu Maz who led the terrorist bombing campaign of the radical Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
Classes met daily for three hours of classroom instruction, complete with hands-on practical training in wiring and arming explosive devices, kidnapping hostages, setting up ambushes, planting car bombs, using remote control devices and timers, and how to befriend people to extract information. Training in setting off explosives and target practice with Kalashnikovs required a field trip to the Jawora district of Khost.
"They were not only teaching in classrooms," says the deputy chief of intelligence of Khost, who recently survived a land-mine attack. He spoke on condition of not being named. "In any work, you have to have practical training, so they used to bring the actual mine to class and the remote controls and let the students practice using them."
Gul says he misses his days at the Mechanical High School. Sitting under a mulberry tree, this 40-something farmer and former terrorist recalls his favorite teacher, whom he won't name, his fellow students from other provinces of Afghanistan, and a mysterious first mission as a terrorist.
Immediately after graduation, he was sent to Badakhshan province, the base of the Northern Alliance. Gul refuses to discuss exactly what he did there, but he does indicate that several of his classmates on this mission were killed, or as he prefers to say, martyred for the cause of Islam.
"Most of my class fellows were arrested and they became hostages in Badakhshan, Konar, and Oruzgan provinces," he says wistfully. "Some of them were later killed in the last days of the Taliban. And I don't know how many are alive and where they are.
"But the people who were against Islam, we put the landmines and killed them where we could," he says.
Today's regime is just as bad as the Northern Alliance was, he adds. "The current democracy is against Islam, because women can go to work in offices with their faces uncovered, and they can even drink wine and go to parties. This is all forbidden in Islam."
He pulls a piece of grass and uses it to pick his teeth. "But right now, I don't have the power to do anything," he sighs. "That's why I'm at home and taking care of my family. I am just a simple farmer now."
• Javed Hamdard contributed to this report.