Asia-Pacific, Headlines

PAKISTAN: Schoolgirls Lured To Suicide Bombing

Ashfaq Yusufzai

PESHAWAR, Jul 17 2008 (IPS) - “I was able to save my daughter from becoming a suicide bomber. She had been lured by her teacher at the religious school,” said Jamilur Rehman, a Pakistani schoolteacher, whose 13-year-old daughter was taken away by a Taliban group to be trained as a suicide bomber in North Waziristan, a lawless border area.

Rehman said that his daughter Sameena took religious lessons in a seminary in Tank district of the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP), where she was shown videos of the suicide bombing.

“She was motivated to the extent that she became ready to be trained as a suicide bomber and destroy the enemies of Islam,” he told IPS in a phone interview.

According to Sameena, she and another student, Mushtari Begum, 15, were handed over by her teacher to two men, but they were seized by political authorities in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan, part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) who handed them over to the Tank police.

“The situation is extremely bad. We have saved the two girls from becoming suicide bombers, but indications are that the trend of women training as suicide bombers has gained currency,” said police officer Ahmad Jamal, in Tank district, which adjoins North Waziristan.

The FATA has been over-run by Pakistani Taliban groups that oppose the so-called ‘war on terror’ unleashed by U.S. President George W. Bush in the wake of the World Trade Center bombings in September 2001. The Afghan and Pakistan Talibans are believed to be behind the escalating violence and suicide attacks in Afghanistan and FATA and the NWFP in Pakistan.

Intelligence agencies claim the FATA is a training ground for suicide attackers. Haji Hussain Ahmed has been identified as running one of the schools for bombers.

“We saw thousands of video clips in which the atrocities of the U.S. forces against Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay had been shown. We were ready to act as suicide bombers, kill pro-U.S. forces and win the blessings of god,” Sameena spoke to IPS.

Ashraf Ali who is an authority on the Taliban at the University of Peshawar confirms the trend. “The Pakistani Taliban, impressed by Iraq, where women suicide bombers have become an albatross around the necks of the U.S. forces, are preparing a lot of women suicide bombers to inflict more damages on the pro-U.S. forces operating in Pakistan.”

Not only in Tank, but about 25 girls from religious schools in restive Swat district, NWFP, have gone missing during the month of July.

“Two of my daughters, Bakhtshaida, 17, and Jamila, 18 went to the Rehmania religious School on Jul. 2, but they didn’t come back home. Her teachers have also expressed ignorance about my daughters’ whereabouts,” said schoolteacher Raham Badshah. He has lodged a complaint with the police but in vain.

There have been 41 incidents of suicide attacks in Pakistan since the start of the year. All the bombers were male from different terrorist and sectarian groups operating in the country.

“But in none of these attacks were women used by the terrorists as suicide bombers. Perhaps they did not consider women suitable for their targets or their ability as suicide bombers was underestimated, but now the Taliban have realised the use of women”, says researcher Ali.

It was on Dec. 4 last year that a female bomber, believed to be Afghan, blew herself up at a checkpost in a high-security zone housing intelligence services buildings and a Christian convent school in Peshawar.

“This was the first suicide attack carried out by a woman in Pakistan,” Ali says.

In the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, while Palestinian women have been among the ranks of fighters, the first to become a suicide bomber was Wafa Idris, a 27-year-old ambulance worker, who killed an Israeli civilian and wounded 140 in January 2002.

On July 3, as security forces launched an operation to flush out militants from the Lal Masjid (red mosque) in Islamabad, the chief cleric Maulana Abdul Qayyum told the media that suicide bombers have been given the go ahead to find targets and strike wherever they choose.

“The possibility of using women suicide bombers by terrorists in Pakistan cannot be ruled out now,” said Jamiluddin, a teacher of political science at the Government College, Tank.

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