The New York Times
By ALISSA J. RUBIN
February 26, 2011
A playing field in a remote area of northwest Afghanistan where a crowd had gathered was the most recent target for a suicide bomber who detonated himself on Saturday, in the seventh suicide attack in Afghanistan in less than a month.
The attack in Faryab Province killed at least 3 people and wounded 30, said the provincial governor, Abdul Haq Shafaq. The crowd had gathered for a game of buzkashi, which involves men on horseback trying to grab a dead goat from each other. The governor said the attacker was a 17-year-old boy. It was unclear how officials could judge his age.
“By targeting civilians, our enemies are now losing their honor among people,” Mr. Shafaq said.
“Faryab is the province where the Taliban were badly defeated, and now they are trying to show that our secure province is insecure and they want to prove they are here in this province,” he said. Clearly upset, he added: “The people who were killed and injured, they were all civilians, they had nothing to do with the Afghan government. Why, why would they target them?”
The bombing came as the National Directorate of Intelligence held a lengthy news conference in Kabul, where its spokesman, Lutfullah Mashal, condemned the insurgents’ recent tactic of attacking civilians. He described the bombers as primarily young men who were cajoled, bribed and threatened into carrying out the deadly acts.
“These people try forcefully to force teenagers — 18-, 17-, 15-year-old boys — to do these acts,” he said. “They threaten them that they will harm their mother and brothers, their family members, if they don’t do the attack,” he said.
Mr. Mashal said that 90 percent of the suicide bombers were from Pakistan. But Afghans often point fingers at Pakistan and accuse it of responsibility for much of the violence that happens here.
NATO military officials said they had little information about the backgrounds of suicide bombers in Afghanistan. While many come from the Pakistani tribal areas, a number of them are of Afghan origin, making it murky whether they should be considered Pakistani or Afghan; both groups speak Pashto and have an identical culture.
The Afghan intelligence directorate presented would-bombers in handcuffs at the news conference, all showing markedly different emotions. All of them had been told that if they became suicide bombers they would go to heaven and that the people they were killing, even the Afghans, were infidels.
A 14-year-old Pakistani boy, Akhtar Nawaz, who had only a faint fuzz on his upper lip, spoke softly, saying that he had been pressured into attempting a suicide bombing while he was attending a madrasa in Miram Shah.
“A man named Gul Agha met me after school and he said, ‘You will do an attack where you sacrifice yourself.’ I told him, ‘No, I don’t want to do a martyrdom attack,’ ” Akhtar said. “Then he started forcing me. He said infidels have come to Afghanistan and you need to fight them and if you don’t, we will harm you.”
They trained him for about six weeks, teaching him to shoot, and then gave him an explosive vest and told him to go across the Afghan border, kill two soldiers and then detonate the vest when he was inside the Afghan Army base, he said. Afghan soldiers saw him crossing and caught him.
The second would-be suicide bomber was Ghami, a 19-year-old shopkeeper from Kandahar, who was recruited first to fight American soldiers in the Arghandab District, but was persuaded to become a suicide bomber by a recruiter named Mirwais who promised him that he would go to heaven, Ghami said.
“Mirwais was telling me about heaven and the benefits of heaven and the way he was telling me about it, it was as if he had the keys to heaven,” he said. “He was saying, ‘Heaven is right near you. All you need to do is to go ahead and sacrifice yourself.’ ”
Worried that Ghami might drift away, Mirwais added that he would pay his family 500,000 Pakistani rupees, or about $5,800. He smiled as he spoke and said that he was being treated well and that the food was very good in the intelligence department’s prison. The third would-be bomber was also from Pakistan. He said that he, too, had been told that it was holy to kill Afghans and that when he arrived in Laghman Province in eastern Afghanistan he was surprised to see people praying because he had thought they were all infidels.
Sharifullah Sahak contributed reporting.