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Central & South Asia
Pakistan 'rescues' child soldiers
Security forces claim to have rescued dozens of children recruited by the Taliban.
Last Modified: 29 Jul 2009 16:07 GMT
Pakistani officials said that the rescued children ranged from six to 15 years of age [AFP]
 

Pakistani security forces have said they rescued dozens of children forcibly recruited by the Taliban as child soldiers in North West Frontier Province.

Officials said the children were being trained to become suicide bombers and warned that hundreds more remained captive by the Taliban group.

"They have been brainwashed and trained as suicide bombers, but the nine who I met seemed willing to get back to normal life," Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmed, who heads a special support group tasked with handling the return of people displaced in the Swat Valley and surrounding areas, told Pakistani state-run television.

"It seems that there are some 300 to 400 such children who the Taliban had taken forcibly or who they were training," Ahmed said.

Children abducted

Major Nasir Ali, a spokesman for forces in Swat, said that most of the children who had been rescued were taken from a Taliban training camp during raids, although some had later turned themselves in voluntarily.

"The account we are getting from these boys is that there could be many more such cases, and we believe that most of them have dispersed among the public," he said.

In video

Pakistan rescues Swat 'child soldiers'

"We have appealed, and we are appealing again and again to people, to parents that if they know any of such case, they should contact us. We promise that we will do our best to rehabilitate them."

Bashir Ahmad Bilour, a North West Frontier Province minister, said that the dozens of children ranged from six to 15 years of age.

"They are prepared mentally. They say that Islam is everything for them. They say they are doing it for Islam. They say they have to carry suicide attacks for the sake of Islam," Bilour said.

He said: "They are brainwashed to such an extreme that they are ready to kill their parents who they call infidels."

Shaukat Ali, a 16-year-old boy, said Taliban fighters abducted him while he was playing cricket.

He said they told him they wanted him to be "a warrior" and offered to pay his family for his services.

At least 15 of the children were undergoing rehabilitation at an army school in the northwestern town of Mardan, Bilour said.

Serious challenge

Syed Hamid Saeed Kazmi, Pakistan's minister of religious affairs, released a statement on Tuesday describing the recruitment of youngsters as suicide bombers to be "the most serious challenge before us".

Fakhar Rehman, a political and defence analyst, told Al Jazeera that there are reports registered by the police about other abductions, "not only in Swat but also in North and South Waziristan."

"Recently, when a peace deal was struck between the militants and the provincial government for the implementation of Sharia law, children were abducted and were used as suicide bombers or they [the Taliban] threatened their parents to give up a male child for recruitment." Rehman sai.

Many other children have been reported missing from parents who say their children had been abducted by the Taliban, he added.

"We have yet to see how the government is going to cope with this problem in the future".

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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