Taliban running school for suicide bombers

Army discovers boys as young as nine brainwashed in Swat valley training camp

Pakistan said yesterday it had rescued 20 young boys who were among hundreds recruited by the Taliban and brainwashed into becoming suicide bombers at a secret indoctrination camp.

The boys, some as young as nine, have revealed details of how they were induced to become part of the Taliban's army of jihad inside Pakistan and told their rescuers that more than 1,000 children may be undergoing training in the special camp in the Swat valley. Their discovery by the army as troops were sweeping through the valley conducting the final stages of a military offensive against the Taliban underscores the organisation's power over poor Pakistani communities and the extreme lengths Taliban commanders are willing to go to achieve their aims.

The rescued children were held at a training camp in the Charbagh area of the Swat valley, where their indoctrination programme reportedly lasted more than a month. Some were recovered as the army was carrying out "search and sweep" operations as part of the final stages of its military offensive in the valley, while others were handed over to the army by worried parents.

"When we interrogated the boys, they said that they had been taken hostage by the Taliban by force, or in some cases they were taken to the training camps by their friends," said Major Nasir Khan, a military spokesman in the Swat valley.

"They were heavily indoctrinated. When I asked them about what they were told, they said: 'The Pakistan army is the ally of the Western capitalist world, they are the enemies of Islam. The fight against them is justified, they are apostates, the friends of the infidels.'"

The boys arrived at the camp by a variety of different routes. Some families had been forced at gunpoint to hand over their children "to fight jihad" during the Taliban's brutal advance across Swat over the last two years. Some groups of young boys were kidnapped in mysterious circumstances, while others were lured in to the Taliban's clutches by the persuasion of their friends.

The precise number of boys detained and trained by the Taliban is unclear, but is believed to run in to the high three figures. One of the 20 boys recovered told Major Khan that there were "about 1,200 other boys" at the training camp in Charbagh. The army suspects that there were other camps in operation elsewhere in the valley, including the militant stronghold of Piochar.

The boys now in the army's hands have started to give details of the training they underwent at the camps. First it appears they were indoctrinated ideologically: they were shown videos of atrocities being carried out across the Muslim world, from Palestine to Chechnya and the Middle East. "They were shown these images to develop a hatred of Western countries," said Major Khan.

The Taliban militants would then gauge their levels of intelligence and physical strength before dividing the young boys into separate categories. The first group was used as local informers who would patrol the streets of the valley gathering information. One of the boys interrogated said he was given a pistol and told to monitor the Pakistan army's troop movements.

As the army began to strike at the Taliban's communications infrastructure, destroying their ability to communicate by satellite phone and capturing known local informants, the militants fell back on simpler methods: young boys were posted on street corners and when an army convoy began to roll in their direction they would send signals to boys further on by mirrors or hand signals.

While boys selected to be informers were chosen for their intelligence and street knowledge, the more athletic ones were picked to train as the next generation of Taliban fighters, and instructed in how to mount the sort of small-scale guerrilla attacks with which the Taliban have been harrying the Pakistan army during their two month-long offensive in the valley. Meanwhile, those who were judged to be less intelligent and more susceptible to manipulation were chosen to join the Taliban's stockpile of suicide bombers. According to the young boys interrogated by the army, this group was kept separately and prized for their potential to cause large army fatalities.

As the Taliban faced mounting losses and began to scatter under the army's offensive, in dribs and drabs the children returned to their homes in different parts of the valley – but with their Taliban indoctrination intact. Many parents were appalled at the changes their children had undergone. "The militants had told the boys that they had the right even to kill their parents if they stood in their way," said Major Khan.

The army has appealed to parents across the valley to hand over sons who spent time in the Taliban's camps. A special school is being established in Swat to rehabilitate the children, to re-educate and counsel them, and give them small grants to be able to seek jobs once they have recovered.

The army claims that it has cleared Taliban fighters in all but a few pockets of the valley. While more than 1,500 militants are said to have been killed, the Taliban commander in the valley, Maulana Fazlullah, is at large. One quarter of the two million displaced have returned to their homes. But many others hesitate to return, fearing that the Taliban could return in strength.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice