Pakistani teen tells of his recruitment, training as suicide bomber
Arshad Khan is one of countless young boys recruited by a network of Taliban commanders. His story highlights the challenge ahead for Pakistani authorities in ending the war on terror.
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After the attack, the Taliban gave him money for bus tickets and sent him, injured and barely able to walk, back to his home in Karachi, Pakistan. In the ensuing two years, his mother nursed him back to health and worked overtime to send him to high school. He recognizes his narrow escape, but says it's hard to shake what happened to him.
“I have been caught between life and death,” says the now 18-year-old Mr. Khan, in an interview with the Monitor.
As a former madrasa student-turned-suicide bomber, Khan's experience is one of the greatest challenges Pakistan confronts. Brainwashed to challenge Pakistan's status as a secular multicultural state, he was a homegrown terrorist with the ability to put those radical thoughts into deadly action.
Khan is just one of countless young boys recruited by a network of Taliban commanders from the country's many unregulated religious madrasas. His story highlights the difficult road ahead for Pakistani authorities in ending the war on terror.
"I wanted to be an engineer and a good Muslim by going to school and madrasa both, but they [the Taliban] shattered my ambitions and changed my life," he says.
Last Sunday, Abdur Razzaq, a militant commander known to be a suicide bomber recruiter, was arrested in a predominantly Pashtun neighborhood in Karachi. Mr. Razzaq then helped police unearth an Islamic militant ring involved in the recruitment of teenage madrasa students, including Khan and a friend of his, to be trained as suicide bombers in North Waziristan.
Razzaq has worked closely with Wali Mehsud. Mr. Mehsud is deputy to one of the deadliest militant leaders, Qari Hussain, who was reportedly killed in a drone attack last year. Mr. Hussain was notorious for his Taliban leadership and for running suicide bomber training centers along the Afghanistan border.
“Abdur Razzaq was deputed by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP] to recruit young, innocent boys as suicide bombers and worked directly under high command of Taliban. He is a trained terrorist,” says senior police investigator Chaudhary Aslam of the police’s Crime Investigation Department. “He would lure the innocent madrasa boys with his jihadi brainwashing.” One such boy was Khan.
Regulated and unregulated madrasas
Khan, like many young boys, was attending the madrasa, or Islamic seminary school for boys of any age, to read the Koran and offer prayers at the mosque. In poor neighborhoods, such as the one he is from, parents send their children to madrasas just to read the Koran. Some spend years in madrasas to memorize the Koran.