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Use of Girl Child Suicide Bomber in Afghanistan Causes Outcry From UN

Use of Girl Child Suicide Bomber in Afghanistan Causes Outcry From UNHearing news of suicide bombers no longer causes shock or dismay, as it has become an all too common mainstay of modern warfare.  The use of suicide bombers has dramatically increased since its modern beginnings in the 1980’s, which saw an average of 4.7 attacks a year, to 180 attacks a year in the first half of the 2000′s (The Moral Logic and Growth of Suicide Terrorism Fig. 1, p.128).   Despite this increase, many were left in a state of disbelief after the publication a few years ago The Continued Rise of the Child Suicide Bomber (February 2008), which as the title suggests, brought to light the increased use of children as suicide bombers.  The following year the story had changed little, as evidenced by the 2009 post, The Battle for Child Suicide Bombers.

The issue of child suicide bombers may not have been gracing the daily headlines of the war in Afghanistan, however the news last week of the forcible recruitment of a girl suicide bomber has now brought the issue to the forefront, causing outcries from the UN.  In response to the brutal and deadly attack, Special Representative Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict,  Radhika Coomaraswamy, issued a statement  on the appalling use of an unwitting girl recruited out of Pakistan as a suicide bomber. 

The girl, who is only 9 years-old, stated she was on her way to school when she was kidnapped and drugged, after which she was forced to wear a detonation vest and dropped off with orders at the Darra Islam checkpoint in Pakistan’s lower district. “Instead of detonating the jacket, after getting out of the car, the child started shouting and running towards the paramilitary frontier corps soldiers stationed at the… post,” the officer said.  She was arrested, her explosive vest was taken off and she was placed in custody, he said. (CNN). 

The news of the girl’s recruitment and escape comes only one month after the Taliban’s denial of any use of children as suicide bombers.  The denial was in direct response to the detainment of some 100 boys between the ages of 12-17  years old, who were being detained by Afghanistan’s National Intelligence Directorate (NDS) on ‘charges of attempting suicide attacks on behalf of the Taliban, but the insurgents deny they recruit minors as their presence could cause “vice” in the ranks’ (IRIN).

According to reports from UNAMA, there were approximately 140 suicide attacks, which led to at least 228 deaths in 2010 in Afghanistan.

“About 100 would-be child suicide attackers are currently in our custody,” Lutfullah Mashal, an NDS spokesman, told IRIN, adding that the children had been trained by the Taliban, Hezbe Islami and the Haqqani Group – the three main insurgent groups that are also accused by the UN of using children for military purposes, including suicide missions.

“We have evidence that the Taliban have been recruiting children aged 11-17 to carry out a range of activities – from armed combat to the smuggling of weapons across the Pakistan-Afghan border and planting IEDs [improvised explosive devices],” said Dee Brillenburg Wurth, a child rights adviser with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). 

According to IRIN, “UNAMA said it has been conducting research to try and collate data on cross-border child recruitment by state and non-state military actors,” as they believe that the majority of the children trained and reared to be suicide bombers are being inducted in Pakistan.  Although the Taliban states otherwise, other reports suggest extremist religious groups are training children in jihad.

While releasing statements condemning the use of children, the UN acknowledges it is very difficult to monitor and report on the recruitment of children in non-state armed forces because of lack of access. “And some of it is cross-border as well, so those are the difficulties we face,” said  Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, in a statement at a press conference in Kabul on 24 February 2010.

Why do the Taliban and other militant forces continue to use children as suicide bombers?  The answer is simple, they are easy to manipulate and influence; children are still seen as the least likely suspect and thus less likely to be arrested, making them more effective than their adult counterparts.



Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict

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